Wow. Hans Zimmer has really outdone himself here. Inception is a score that grabs your attention and rarely lets go. Even the moments when it is a bit slower managed to keep my interest. The overall tone of the score itself is classic Zimmer, though I can hear some other influences in it. Depsite all of this, the score is also very original and quite a trip from beginning to end.
The album itself is kind of weird in a few ways. It begins with two fairly short tracks that feed into track three, which is where things really take off. But these opening three tracks also sound like they’re one longer track and if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll probably not really notice until track three really kicks off and you just have to check the track name (“Dream is Collapsing” if you’re interested). This is the track where the giant trombone/french horn/whatever-the-hell really kicks in. This sound was featured in the film trailers even as early as last summer, which is part of what I think helped this score achive what it as. According to interviews and such, Zimmer was working on this while Nolan was shooting (not unlike what they did for The Dark Knight). This kind of lead time has helped him to really craft a unique sound for the score.
That being said, there are obivous things that will remind a listener of The Dark Knight, and the very atmospheric nature of many of the cues also remind me of David Julyan’s work on Insomnia and The Prestige…especially The Prestige. But Zimmer takes that atmosphere and turns it into something much more. It breathes and moves though remaining in a sort of stasis. The guitar work, played by former Smiths member Johnny Marr, help the score find a groove that, especially in track 3, it rarely wants to shake. As I mentioned to a friend, I predict that “Dream is Collapsing” is going to be heard in many, many film trailers in the coming years.
The two longer tracks on the album, “Old Souls” and “Waiting for a Train,” are also worthy of mention. “Old Souls,” track 5, is almost pure atmosphere, featuring the piano theme (introduced straight away on the first track), over synth pads. The track doesn’t really waver from this theme and only varies instrumentation and adds in some other sounds. But despite this, Zimmer does such a good job of adding in new sounds to interest the ear that one doesn’t really notice that the track is nearly eight minutes long.
“Waiting for a Train” starts out much like “Old Souls,” the music existing in some sort of otherworldy ether, and while it also mediates on the same piano motive (this time starting out in guitar) it also explores some other material, and the distinctive trombone/french horn/whatever-the-hell call is not present in it’s natural state until the end (though the arguement could be made that some of the string swells are variations). Though, I’d really like to know what the French song is doing in it about 3 minutes before the end. Guess that is something the film can answer.
If there is a cue that I don’t truly care for, it’s “Mombasa.” It’s a prototypical Zimmer action cue, and while it’s not terrible, it varies in many ways from the overall tone of the album that it kind of sticks out like [insert metaphor here].
Anyway, there is more I could say, but I want to see the film first before I attempt a more in-depth analysis. Bottom line, though, this is my new frontrunner in the Oscar race.