Rambo: Last Blood – Brian Tyler

The movie franchise Rambo, based on a Vietnam war veteran played by Sylvester Stallone, started in 1982 with Rambo: First Blood. A second and third movie were also released in the ‘80s. These three movies were quite entertaining, but the best thing I liked about them was the music composed by the late Jerry Goldsmith, especially the magnificent main theme from the first movie “It’s a Long Road.” In 2008, after a hiatus of 20 years, a sequel, with the simple title Rambo, appeared in the theaters, and since Goldsmith was sadly not among us anymore, the job to write the music was given to Brian Tyler. More than ten years later, he reprised that part by writing the music for the, allegedly, final movie of the series, Rambo: Last Blood.

I always explore a soundtrack before I see a movie, and when I listened to it, not much was standing out to me. After watching the movie, however, the music started to make more sense. The movie can be divided into two parts. The first two-thirds of the movie is about Rambo the veteran: a person who is still troubled by his war history and who is trying to make something of his life with his adopted new family. During this part you keep hearing the music from “Battle Adagio” that Tyler has written for the prequel, which I will be calling the veteran theme in this review. The theme starts with a single patriotic sounding trumpet, which makes me think about Goldsmith’s music. The music after the trumpet is a beautiful slow-paced orchestral piece with gorgeous melodies and can be heard in many tracks on this album, like “Dusk,” “Sorrow,” “Homeward Bound” and “Sunset.” There is also a hint of the theme in “Vengeance Eternal,” before an amazing orchestral buildup starts to work towards a huge – and extremely grisly – climax. 

After a certain extremely sad plot point, two-thirds into the movie, the veteran has to change back into the soldier he once was, and that is where the main theme, representing him as a soldier, for this movie gets to shine. This theme can be heard in the first track of the album in “Rambo: Last Blood,” which is a slow melody laid on top of a foundation of percussion. The way Tyler has written the theme is perfectly suited to be used in montage scenes, as can be heard in “Prepare for War.” In “Unmistakable” the melody of the theme can be heard without the percussion, creating a sad sounding piece. I really should watch the movie again and see where this music was used. 

As a warrior, you need to fight, and there are moments in the movie when Rambo has to, or – even worse – wants to. It comes as no surprise that a hint of the warrior theme appears occasionally in the music for the fighting scenes, as can be heard in, for example, the second half of “Fatalism” as a prelude to the fighting, “Rescue at Night,” “Blood and Fire” and “The Tunnels.” The battle music is, except for the theme appearances, not much more than percussion, fast orchestral patterns, and some electronics. To be honest not much more is needed musically for these scenes. They are fast-paced, lots of screaming from people dying a gruesome death, and contain lots of fire, bullets and explosions. With all these extra sounds and noise there is not really any room for a melody.

While Brian Tyler reused more of Jerry Goldsmith’s music in Rambo, this movie had less, but the spirit of Goldsmith could still be heard in “The Range.” Not only does the track contain the iconic main theme from Goldsmith, but you can also hear music from “Another Time” from the Rambo III album. 

One of the most important things for me about film music is that it can be used to help tell a story, and for this score, Brian Tyler did an amazing job. Especially the use of the veteran and the soldier theme made my heart beat faster while watching the movie, as it highlighted the mindset of Rambo throughout. To relive the movie by listening to this album is a bit of a challenge since the tracks are not ordered chronologically, which makes it a bit of a puzzle to connect the tracks to certain scenes. In addition, as a stand-alone album, the music is not that interesting to me. I love many of the heroic themes Brian Tyler has written for movies, but Rambo is not a hero, so he does not need one, making the main theme not really stand out. The veteran theme is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. It is not originally composed for this movie though: it was written originally for the prequel. I would describe this soundtrack as a good underscore for the movie, a job well done, but I would prefer listening to other more melodic and heroic scores from Brian Tyler instead. If you do not mind a less melodic score with an amazing theme implementation, you should definitely check this one out.

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The highlights are in bold.

  1. Rambo: Last Blood (2:55)
  2. The Ranch (3:12)
  3. Dusk (2:36)
  4. Unmistakable (3:17)
  5. Sorrow (2:07)
  6. Vengeance Eternal (2:31)
  7. Homeward Bound (3:20)
  8. Fatalism (3:11)
  9. Destination (3:35)
  10. John and Gabrielle (5:01)
  11. Rescue at Night (4:25)
  12. Concussed (3:27)
  13. Blood and Fire (4:02)
  14. Outnumbered (6:05)
  15. Love Unconditional (3:12)
  16. U-Turn (2:35)
  17. Because of You (3:49)
  18. They Will Come Back (2:02)
  19. We Will Find Him (5:17)
  20. The Tunnels (1:02)
  21. Higher Aspirations (1:41)
  22. Preparing for War (3:01)
  23. Sunset (2:30)

Total length: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Lakeshore Records (2019)

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