As I opened my CD and popped it into my Mac I was completely unaware as to what to expect from Inception. I naturally look forward to every Zimmer score since it’s his music that I grew up on and it’s his music that made me want to be a filmmaker. So, I hit play on iTunes, took a deep breath and closed my eyes.
I really don’t know how to describe what I experienced in those next 50 minutes, but I can say that it left such an emotional impact on me that I was still shaking after it finished. The score swells and boils and builds to an eruption that washes over you like a wave. The wave then pulls back and then washes over you again and again. The score feels uniquely personal especially by being able to isolate and pick out the solo instrumentation. While this is a very electronic heavy score it never feels synthetic and is organic in every sense of the word.
Emotionally it can be aggressive and at times extremely harsh, but it has a gentle side of incredible beauty. What Zimmer does best is that every cue builds like a separate story on its own. Almost like a writer writing a screenplay. You could easily apply the three-act story structure to every cue in this score. The cues each have an introduction, building, climax and then resolution. It’s something I’ve always admired about his score writing and here with Inception it’s extremely evident.
Most of the score stays extremely melodic. Exceptions would be tracks like “Old Souls” and “Waiting For A Train”, which still have identifiable melodies but act more like dreamlike transition periods. “Mombasa” is an intense assault on the senses that will get your heart racing and probably leave you gasping for air. The track actually reminded me of “Fire” from Angels & Demons.
The album finishes with “Time”, which is such an extraordinarily beautiful track that reintroduces the central theme we heard in the first track. If I had to pick one track that defined this score and its composer it would probably be “Time”. This is Zimmer stripped down to the bone. It builds for 3.5 minutes then comes to its climax. It then dies down to strings and piano. Soon the strings disappear and we are left with a piano that plays the extremely simple theme. A haunting echo of what we just experienced. The feeling you have when it’s all over is comparable to waking up in a cold sweat after an incredibly intense and vivid dream you just had.
I can’t say yet if this is the best thing Hans Zimmer has done, but it very well may be. I’ve always maintained that The Thin Red Line was his masterpiece, but after experiencing Inception and the rush of emotions I felt with it I can honestly say this may be my new #1 in the book of Zimmer. As Christopher Nolan said in the liner notes of the CD “That’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.”