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Composed and Co-Produced by:
Hans Zimmer
Lorne Balfe

Conducted by:
Matt Dunkley

Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler
Elizabeth Finch
Walter Fowler
Rick Giovinazzo
Kevin Kaska
Suzette Moriarty
Ed Neumeister
Carl Rydlund

Co-Produced by:
Christopher Nolan
Alex Gibson
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Watertower Music
(July 13th, 2010)
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Regular U.S. release.
Nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, and a Grammy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you loved the oppressive, brooding, and heavily processed sound of Hans Zimmer's harshest blockbuster scores of the late 2000's, a sound faithfully regurgitated for extended periods here.

Avoid it... if you wish Zimmer would stop making ridiculously dumb statements about how transcendent his style and methodology is and instead step out of his comfort zone to explore another generation of truly innovative ideas in his music.
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WRITTEN 7/13/10
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Inception: (Hans Zimmer/Lorne Balfe) Every director seems to have one project of personal importance that he or she develops throughout the majority of a career, refining to death such productions until, if they ever do get the green light from a studio, they usually end up in shambles. For director, writer, and producer Christopher Nolan, that dream to become a reality is Inception, the 2010 culmination of a decade of writing and pushing of the concept until Warner Brothers finally allotted him $200 million to perfect his vision. The idea behind Inception is prime candy for science fiction enthusiasts in love with temporal paradoxes and alternate realities, following The Matrix and Dark City in terms of establishing and tearing apart realities that aren't what we think they are. In the plot, Leonardo DiCaprio is a skilled "extractor," a man who can steal secrets from another person's subconscious and conducts his corporate espionage while his targets are dreaming. His talent is not only coveted, but it makes him an obvious target of his victims wrath, and his only chance at resuming a normal life rests in an idea once thought impossible: planting an idea rather than stealing one. While the script alone is enough to twist one's mind, the production design of Inception is arguably its most accomplished selling point. With reality folding, exploding, and contorting in fantastic ways, the film has always promised to be a visual treat, and early critical response was overwhelming positive. Nolan had collaborated with composer David Julyan prior to working with Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard for the rebooted Batman franchise, and Julyan's usual tendencies to produce atmospheric haze would likely have served Inception well. Instead, it's no surprise that Zimmer's star power (and loyal ghostwriter Lorne Balfe) ended up attached to the production; after all, such high profile scores with a popular guest performer on electric guitar can be marketed with live performances and signing events to celebrate the opening of the film. This all happened with Inception, of course, Zimmer's score transformed into a event for salivating fanboys much like The Dark Knight, a project after which, if you recall, Zimmer erroneously claimed he would be retiring from film music composition for a while. Like the popular 2008 score, Inception's music has been the recipient of a fair amount of teased press information, with an unconventional technique of scoring the film promised in interviews meant to hype the production.

Unfortunately, like The Dark Knight, no amount of polished marketing, supposedly creative writing procedures, special guest performers, and/or claims of transcendent music made by the composer can help the score for Inception avoid the inevitable disappointment it dishes out to those listeners seeking something truly fresh in film music, from Zimmer or otherwise. It's amazing to consider how much hype Zimmer, his supporters, and his financial interests generate for these "events" given how underdeveloped and boring the resulting music can be. If the composer and these entities were extending these delusions of grandeur in order to simply sell units at record stores and iTunes, then it would make sense. But these people seem to think that the music Zimmer provided for Inception is itself worth a parade, this while vastly superior compositions and recordings for films in 2010 (such as Zimmer associates John Powell's How to Train Your Dragon or Howard's The Last Airbender) slip by without any of the same mainstream recognition. This isn't to say that Zimmer shouldn't have earned his paycheck for Inception. Indeed, he did, as evidenced by the effective match between the tone of Nolan's concept and Zimmer's score. Why anybody would go orgasmic for this kind of music, however, remains a good question. Zimmer's methodology raised some eyebrows initially; he was refused by Nolan to see the rough edits of the film and write music based on those. Instead, the composer operated based on his impression of the characters in the script, and he sent Nolan enough original library material to create a functionally original temp score before the director allowed Zimmer to coordinate the cues into final shape (to an extent not known) during post-production. As such, you won't hear a score in Inception that was intentionally tailored by the composer to specific synchronization points and other subtle shifts of emphasis on screen. Instead, the music's final form was largely assigned by Nolan, a circumstance that has drawn some criticism from film music fans who have long been convinced that the director has little intelligent idea about what he's doing when handling the soundtracks for his films. Interestingly, Zimmer had originally expressed an interest in writing the score as one of romance given that he viewed the concept as a love story. Ultimately, however, an environment of atmospheric pseudo-noir haze became the identity of his composition, the dull and vague memories of dreams musically embodied in equally dreary tones and undefined narrative parameters.

All you need to know about Zimmer's approach to Inception came in the following quote from the composer at time of its release: "I'm not interested in the massive heroic tunes anymore. Now, I'm interested in how I can take two, three, or four notes and make a really complex emotional structure. It's emotional as opposed to sentimental. It's not bullshit heroic; it has dignity to it." Now, Zimmer has been known to say some truly dumb things in the last few years, sometimes denigrating the talents of his associates in the industry by devaluing their style (by Zimmer's definition, Georges Delerue's sentimental tone lacks refinement and grace!). It could be easily argued that "bullshit heroic" music, an issue that Zimmer raised when dismissing Danny Elfman's theme for the original Batman as "happy," is actually more difficult to perfect for a soundtrack than what Zimmer has provided for Inception. For instance, it takes infinitely more talent for John Williams to craft a heroic theme that doesn't come across as cheesy than it is for Vangelis to simply write simplistic ideas in various unorthodox textures and force the film to adapt to that sound. As discussed in reviews before, Zimmer is neglecting to conform his compositional style to the needs of all of his assignments, instead choosing to explore whatever his preferred "dignified" approach is and then applaud his work as transcendent as an excuse. Perhaps most intriguing about Inception is the fact that Nolan aided and encouraged this technique through his procedure of not allowing Zimmer to see the film. It should be no surprise, considering everything outlined thus far in this review, that what Zimmer wrote for this film is not a score for Inception, but rather a self-contained concert composition to promote the kind of music he wishes to explore at this particular point in his career. It's no different from what John Barry ended up doing in the 1990's. Barry became a completely stubborn, one-dimensional composer in that decade, buoyed by the prior success of his string-dominated romance sound. He was eventually ineffective in his assignments because of his adherence to a very narrow set of parameters in his music. With Inception, it's become increasingly clear that Zimmer could be defined as the 2010's version of what Barry was in the 1990's. Still popular, still hired, but an artist of regurgitation and rigid perceptions. It's amazing to think that Zimmer, who at one time could bounce from the style of A League of Their Own to Point of No Return with Cool Runnings in the middle, has become so limited that he risks becoming the antithesis of a versatile composer like John Debney.

Ratings Icon
Average: 2.97 Stars
***** 787 5 Stars
**** 775 4 Stars
*** 873 3 Stars
** 898 2 Stars
* 770 1 Stars
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You need a kick
Vincent - August 9, 2015, at 2:40 p.m.
1 comment  (1150 views)
FVSR Reviews Inception
Brendan Cochran - November 13, 2014, at 5:05 p.m.
1 comment  (881 views)
Inception average critics rating
Chris - October 6, 2013, at 10:49 a.m.
1 comment  (1327 views)
tl;dr *NM*
Justin - August 22, 2011, at 4:37 p.m.
1 comment  (1225 views)
Amazing arrogance...   Expand >>
Marc Lawson - May 10, 2011, at 8:54 a.m.
5 comments  (4044 views)
Newest: April 10, 2012, at 12:11 p.m. by
An honest opinion.
Richard Kleiner - April 25, 2011, at 10:05 p.m.
1 comment  (1573 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 49:13
• 1. Half Remembered Dream (1:12)
• 2. We Built Our Own World (1:56)
• 3. Dream is Collapsing (2:24)
• 4. Radical Notion (3:43)
• 5. Old Souls (7:44)
• 6. 528491 (2:24)
• 7. Mombasa (4:54)
• 8. One Simple Idea (2:28)
• 9. Dream Within a Dream (5:04)
• 10. Waiting For a Train (9:30)
• 11. Paradox (3:25)
• 12. Time (4:36)
(some digital download versions of the album contain the bonus cues "Projections" and "Don't Think About Elephants")

Notes Icon
The insert includes the expected note from the director about the perceived greatness of this music.
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Inception are Copyright © 2010, Watertower Music and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/13/10 (and not updated significantly since).
Bullshit heroic music is fun!
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