Home > Reviews > UNCHARTED – Ramin Djawadi

UNCHARTED – Ramin Djawadi

Original Review by Christopher Garner

Uncharted is a long-delayed action-adventure film based on a video game franchise (that was in turn inspired by Indiana Jones), but this new film feels more like National Treasure than anything else. It tells the story of Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), a young thief who meets Sully (Mark Wahlberg), a seasoned treasure hunter that used to work with Nate’s long-lost brother. Nate teams up with Sully to find Magellan’s lost treasure and encounters plenty of bad guys and double-crosses along the way. Critics have been hard on the film, but I thought it was more fun than its tomatometer score would suggest, despite the ridiculous finale. Uncharted is directed by Ruben Fleischer, who helmed the Zombieland films and the first Venom film, and it has probably done well enough at the box office ($330+ million) to get a sequel, though none has been announced yet.

Composer Ramin Djawadi was hired to score the film, perhaps because of his previous relationship with producers Charles Roven and Alex Gartner, having score Warcraft and The Great Wall for them a few years back. Djawadi has scored his share of big-budget action/adventure films and handles this one with ease, though maybe not with quite as much inspiration as he had when scoring the MCU’s Eternals last year.

The score starts off with “Uncharted,” which introduces the main theme—a brassy heroic anthem orchestrated here like it might have been written for an 80s action film. It sounds a bit like Jerry Goldsmith to me in parts and reminds me rhythmically and melodically a little of his theme for Masada. It’s a pretty great way to start things off. If the whole album sounded like this it would be a phenomenal score.

Unfortunately that opening track is not indicative of the rest of the music. Most of the action tracks are dominated by a very contemporary electronics-heavy sound that could accompany any generic action film. The electronics sound like they’ve been processed through a distortion amp, giving them a grungy sound. “Parachute” is a good example of this. It’s heavy on electronics and drums, with electric guitar occasionally hinting at parts of the main theme. You get more of this style in the tracks “I’m All In” and “Only One Rule in this Game” which both include the main theme playing alongside the brash electronics.

A couple of action cues stand out from the rest. The first is “Cross Purposes,” which incorporates a nice Spanish sound to accompany their escapades in Barcelona. There are a lot of drums, some Spanish guitar, and castanets. Occasionally the distorted electronics swallow everything else up for a bit, but then the orchestral elements manage to break through again. The other action cue that I thought distanced itself from the rest is “Give Me the Cross,” which is much less dominated by the aforementioned electronics. I find orchestral music more satisfying, generally, so this cue was a nice change of pace. Lots of low brass gives the music some weight, and the drums and quick strings give it momentum.

There are some slower and softer cues along the way. “Brothers” is pretty, with a pensive piano and electric guitar and strings that build at the end. “Heart of Gold” features an acoustic guitar doubled with another stringed instrument—maybe a dulcimer or lyre. “Lost Not Gone is another cue with a nice softer sound.

Then there are some cues that left no impression on me at all. “Hey, Kid,” “Meeting Braddock,” and “Skeleton with Angel Wings” are all there. Other cues were a little more noteworthy, but still didn’t do much for me. “Clockwise Keys” has a sense of building anticipation. “Sully’s Secret” has some mystery to it. All of these cues serviced the film just fine, but you could skip them on album and not miss much.

A few other highlights deserve a mention. “Giant Urns” opens with a new theme, which I’ll call the treasure theme. Here it provides a sense of wonder as the characters discover what they think must be Magellan’s treasure room (spoiler: it’s not). There are some nice subtle steel drums in cues like “Ready to Make History,” which also includes another variation on the main theme, and “Have Some Respect” which includes the treasure theme toward the end. “House of Moncada” has some Spanish guitar, and then interestingly an electric guitar playing in a Spanish style. “Postcards,” accompanies Nate as he tries to figure out whether there’s a hidden message from his brother in a stack of postcards he mailed him over the years (spoiler: there is). The music gets more energetic as he discovers a key to the location of the treasure that his brother somehow figured out. There’s a nice statement of the treasure theme at 2:40.

“A Whole World You Haven’t Seen” starts with the main theme, then noble strings take over as Nate discovers Magellan’s treasure, still aboard two centuries-old ships. At 2:14 we get a grand variation on the treasure theme. The rest of cue, which relies heavily on the treasure theme, is gorgeous and is the highlight of the score for me.

The finale of the film is a chase on Magellan’s ships, which have been hoisted into the air by helicopters. The cues “Flying Galleons” and “Cannonball” provide the scene with more generic electronics and drum loops. With a scene like that, and track titles like those, you might hope for a little more swash in your buckle, but alas, the only nod to any nautical derring-do is a brief piratey moment that accompanies one of the film’s more flat-falling attempts at humor.

“Lost Not Gone” is a nice denouement and applies the treasure theme to something Nate will probably find more valuable than Magellan’s gold in a future movie. “The Biggest Treasure Never Found” is a solid parting shot from Djawadi. It is comprised mostly of variations on the treasure theme (separated by some nice interludes) that grow in grandeur with each repetition. It starts with a quiet piano over soft strings. Then horns. More brass instruments are added for the next variation, and then the full orchestra plays one last grand statement of the theme.

I really enjoy the themes from this score. It’s too bad much of the rest of it didn’t reach those same heights for me. Still, Djawadi’s score serves the film well and has moments on the album definitely worth returning to. The presentations of the themes in “Uncharted” and “A Whole World You Haven’t Seen” are some of the best musical moments of the year so far.

Buy the Uncharted soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Uncharted (2:06)
  • Parachute (1:41)
  • Brothers (1:58)
  • Hey, Kid (1:49)
  • I’m All In (1:42)
  • Meeting Braddock (2:02)
  • Only One Rule in This Game (4:31)
  • Heart of Gold (2:15)
  • Cross Purposes (2:15)
  • Clockwise Keys (3:15)
  • Skeleton With Angel Wings (3:23)
  • Give Me the Cross (3:13)
  • Giant Urns (1:33)
  • Sully’s Secret (1:48)
  • Ready to Make History (2:33)
  • Have Some Respect (1:13)
  • House of Moncada (2:16)
  • Postcards (3:18)
  • A Whole World You Haven’t Seen (4:01)
  • Flying Galleons (2:11)
  • Cannonball (3:41)
  • Lost Not Gone (2:01)
  • The Biggest Treasure Never Found (3:47)

Running Time: 58 minutes 31 seconds

Sony Classical (2021)

Music composed by Ramin Djawadi. Conducted by James Shearman. Orchestrations by Stephen Coleman, Andrew Kinney and Michael J. Lloyd. Recorded and mixed by Nick Wollage. Edited by XXXX. Album produced by Ramin Djawadi.

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