James Newton Howard

" Entertaining but average efficiency "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

Disaster movies about viruses have always plagued Hollywood throughout the years, and in 1995 it was time for Wolfgang Peterson to put his name on the viral threat. Outbreak, having an all star cast (Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renee Russo, Donald Sutherland and Kevin Spacey) proved to be a successful antidote at the box office, staying at the number 1 position for nearly 3 weeks. And if it wasn't enough already, a positive cure came from composer James Newton Howard, a name that finally started to attract attention after his breakthrough in 1994.

The score of Outbreak is far from complete, holding a 30 minute deadline as it was a common strategy by Varèse Sarabande back then. So, expect that several tracks might be omitted for the right or wrong reasons. We start with a noticeable entry nonetheless. With "Main Titles" we hear a clever combination of the mood of The Fugitive that's mixed with the ethereal vocal work of Grand Canyon, trust me in the film it works wonders. Another wonder is the short but delightful burst of action fanfares in "Motaba River Valley", a style that was injected in a lot of the good old JNH scores. Expect the same energy shot in "Finding the Ship".

The remainder is a little less groundbreaking but still entertaining. There's an emotional fanfare in "White Flags", a surprising but lovely choral moment in the middle of "Casey Rips his Suit", a lovely moment for rest and love in "Robbie's Bedside" and an atonal outbreak that rises as "Jimbo Gets Sick". The final 2 tracks do show the best that James delivered for Outbreak. Expect rhythmic attacks, brassy outbursts and the likes you heard in Waterworld, only less refined but more brutal. And in "They're Coming" we hear a short but thunderous action minute the moment the bomb has been dropped ... somewhere.

Outbreak is in this format efficient but not that memorable. The several moments of action are deadly entertaining as usual, but they lack the superiority of the Waterworld antidote. The calmer tracks by then lack a theme or motif to protect yourself with, and in general the score lacks the great JNH voice that we saw resurfacing in that year's surprise hit Waterworld. Of course JNH fans like myself find it easy to like a cure as Outbreak, but for casual buyers the resistance might prove to be inadequate.

Favorite Moment - They're Coming (5.26 - 6.17)
The final seconds are the right ones, riveting JNH in a nutshell

Track Listing

1. Main Titles (3.19)
2. Motaba River Valley (1.00)
3. Final Authorization (2.34)
4. White Flags (1.44)
5. Casey Rips his Suit (2.20)
6. Finding the Ship (1.42)
7. Casey Goes Down (2.04)
8. Robbie's Bedside (2.38)
9. Jimbo Gets Sick (1.43)
10. Cedar Creek Exodus (1.07)
11. A Little Resistance (2.48)
12. They're Coming (7.14)

Total Length: 30.13
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 10 votes - average 3.6/5)

Released by

Varèse Sarabande VSD-5599 (regular release 1995)

Conducted by

Artie Kane

Orchestrations by

Chris Boardman, Brad Dechter, Robert Elhai & James Newton Howard