InceptionAccompanying one of 2010’s biggest mess-with-your-mind movies, Hans Zimmer’s darkly atmospheric soundtrack is enjoyable on its own too. Zimmer makes excellent use of his trademark rapid-fire cello section (see also: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, or almost any other action blockbuster Zimmer has scored in the past ten years) as well as some inspired guitar work by Johnny Marr, but for some of the movie’s dreamier sequences (and it really is all about dreaming), he also introduces an unsettlingly unresolved four-chord sequence, providing a thoughtful interlude for the movie’s more thoughtful moments.

That sequence, the backbone of the whole score, either gently hints that something is amiss with what some of the characters (and the audience) perceives as reality, or telegraphs its with gigantic, ominous, end-of-the-world blasts of low brass. On CD, the theme is soft-pedaled a bit until it blows you out of your seat in “The Dream Is Collapsing”.

Other thematic material gradually appears, from the boisterous five-minute balls-to-the-wall action cue “Mombasa” to more strangely unsettling melodies in “One Simple Idea” and “Dream Within A Dream” – again, using chord sequences that seem circular because there’s not an obvious beginning or end. “Radical Notion” slowly brings in a pulsating low string ostinato that grows until it washes everything else out pretty spectacularly. Even when a more positive variation on one of these primary themes appears late in the score (and the movie), it has a bittersweet sound – and it still doesn’t quite come to a definitive resolution.

In some ways, Zimmer’s music for Inception summons up memories of the late, great John Barry’s score for The Black Hole – musically, it’s beautiful, but much of the score inspires a growing sense of pure dread. Considering how highly regarded Barry’s soundtrack has been, this is nothing but a compliment. (Given Zimmer’s trademark sound of 4 out of 4repeating low string ostinatos, the Inception soundtrack should also be on the list of anyone who spent all of 2010 eagerly waiting for the Tron Legacy soundtrack.)

There’s a reason the music from Inception has earned Hans Zimmer an Oscar nomination (one of several for Inception overall, I might add). Even when I’ve liked Zimmer’s work in the past, it hasn’t had quite the depth and epic scale that Inception has. Like the storyline it accompanies, it sticks in your head.

Order this CD

  1. Half-Remembered Dream (1:13)
  2. We Built Our Own World (1:55)
  3. Dream Is Collapsing (2:24)
  4. Radical Notion (3:43)
  5. Old Souls (7:44)
  6. 528491 (2:23)
  7. Mombasa (4:52)
  8. One Simple Idea (2:28)
  9. Dream Within A Dream (5:04)
  10. Waiting For A Train (9:28)
  11. Paradox (3:22)
  12. Time (4:35)

Released by: Reprise
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 49:11