SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Hummel Gets the Rockets

Each Saturday, Jason spotlights one product or service or work of art he finds particularly amazing; the kinds of things that make you wonder, “Why doesn’t everyone have this?” (Read more atwww.

One of my all-time favorite movies boasts a soundtrack I like even better than the movie. Wait; that’s wrong.

Rather, I think the soundtrack compliments the film so flawlessly that it helped make the movie what it is. This movie without said soundtrack would be a lot like toast without butter, crab without lemon, pancakes without syrup, and worse.

The film in question is The Rock. Ethical dilemma, intense action, and high stakes combined with impeccable one-liners from Sean Connery, Nick Cage, Ed Harris, David Morse, and John Christopher McGinley (now better known for his role as Dr. Cox on Scrubs) make this flick an instant hit with almost everyone who watches.

But my favorite contributors are Nick Glennie-Smith, Hary Gregson-Williams, and my favorite film score composer, the best composer you’ve never heard of, Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Lion King, Pirates of the Carribean, and of course, The Dark Knight).

The whole soundtrack is incredible, though it is made almost entirely of action beats. However, there are crucial tracks which feature mellower moments, further heightened by their rarity.

My favorite track of the soundtrack is the very first. It’s called “Hummel Gets the Rockets”.

It begins with a bass rumble with brass climbing subtly over the top for melody. Played alone, this is stirring and emotional. In the film, it is the backdrop for remembered radio chatter of fallen comrades and military funerals as remembered by General Frank Hummel. At 1:16, a resigned marine declares, “They’re not coming for us, are they sir?”

At 1:17, the first true melody is introduced, in haunting brass  for exactly 16 phrases (brilliantly formed into 4 musical sentences), percussion provided by snare rolls, the whole ensemble in militaristic rhythm to provide subtle action beating.

underscoring General Hummel stating:

Congressman Weaver and esteemed members of the Special Armed Services Committee, I come before you to protest a grave injustice…

You see Hummel putting on his dress uniform and removing his wedding ring. The 16 phrase melody concludes right before Hummel’s conclusion at 1:47:

It has to stop.

The melody crescendos another 16 phrases as Hummel passes the honor guard for a military funeral in the rain at Arlington and arrives at the tombstone of his deceased wife, dead one year before the movie takes place.

A final percussion at 2:26 signals the end of melody and a mournful French Horn solo accompanies these words:

There’s something I’ve gotta do, Barb. Something I couldn’t do while you were here. I tried. You know I tried everything, and I still don’t have their attention. Let’s hope this elevates their thinking. But whatever happens…

…please don’t think less of me.

At 3:04, General Hummel places his Congressional Medal of Honor upon the grave, kisses it, and departs.

Another bass rumble at ~3:12 and the screen fades to black, followed by a steady bass pounding for several seconds until a sign reads “NAVAL WEAPONS DEPOT” and at 3:21, the next melody is introduced.

This one is faster, more intense, and heavily punctuated by percussion, again in four phrases per musical sentence. A team moves stealthily forward, snipers remove sentries (with tranquilizers), while Hummel boldly drives in duly announced with a “security inspection team”.

At 3:55, a final musical sentence begins (in four phrases) at the current tempo. In virtually double-time, a new theme is introduced at 4:05: Again, four musical sentences in 16 exact phrases. Only this time, the strings in the background are building with staccato intensity. More military infiltration, and now the composers begin playing with the now familiar theme, breaking it when convenient, retaining it when desired.

By 5:07, a former theme is reintroduced, and I defy any listener not to tap his foot listening along.

The phrasing at each point is brilliant, and cannot be described by my text here. Each phrase expertly climbs and concludes into the next with incredible articulation, each complimenting the last, and each expertly punctuated.

As Hummel’s team secures the area, Hummel strides into a room of VX Poison Gas rockets. The music hesitates at 5:59/6:00 just long enough for General Hummel to order:

I want 16, Major.

Though the group movies with the deadly grace of marines, a rocket is dropped and fragile balls containing liquid VX gas roll across the floor. If just one shatters, it will kill everyone in the room. The Major yells “Evac!” and the team does, just before one ball breaks against a far wall…but one marine didn’t make it out of the room before the Major seals the door.

At ~6:45 the Major orders everyone else out of the anteroom while he looks the dying marine (whose skin has begun to boil) directly in the eye through the door’s window. The music again shifts to mourning brass and the Major whispers, “Sorry.”

The acquired VX Poison Gas rockets will be used to hold the city of San Francisco hostage in return for restitution paid to military heroes who died in special operations the government covered up, whose families received no pensions, and who were not even given a proper military burial.

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