Soundtrack Review: INCEPTION

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
July 22nd, 2010

Rating: 4.5/5

One of the comments I have heard when someone mentions INCEPTION, beyond the theorizing and general opinion on the film, is a single sound: BONG. This single note, as it dissolves into a reverberating ‘g’ sound, has become as much a part of the world of INCEPTION as the characters and the dreams themselves.

Rather than creating another classic score, as he has become known for, Hans Zimmer (THE DARK KNIGHT, SHERLOCK HOLMES) instead focused on a few notes, such as this one, when creating the score for INCEPTION. I felt this note, now synonymous with the film itself, almost emulated that of the single, repeated tone that tries to bring us back into consciousness via our alarm clocks every morning. Granted in the world of director Christopher Nolan, even the possible sound of an alarm clock is stylized and, to put it simply, much cooler than anything we would normally experience in every day life.

This bass-filled, vibrating tone is first heard in the tail end of “528491” and brings you back to that moment when most of us first heard it in the film’s trailer. This single sound, like a single idea, leads one into questioning. In the case of “528491," it leads directly into one of the more heist-like tracks, “Mombasa," reminding us that this is not just a foray into dreams, it is simply a dream world created to allow for something to be taken without the dreamer’s knowledge.

Just like any dream, it pulls from all areas of your mind and can change on itself just as quickly. Zimmer’s score is at once romantic (“We Built Our Own World”), classic (“Paradox”), electronic (“One Simple Idea”), haunting (“Half Remembered Dream”), suspenseful (“Dream Is Collapsing”), and dreamlike (“Old Souls”). The songs fold into one another, creating not just singular pieces that support different aspects of the story, but a layered experience much like the different layers Nolan created in the film.

Zimmer has noted in interviews that the secrecy that surrounded the project extended even to him and, rather than being let in to the edit while composing, Nolan left him to his own imagination to create his sonic dreamscape. Much as Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) did not want to know the details of the architectural landscape created for their mark’s dreams, Nolan only allowed Zimmer to know the film’s story and come on set to absorb the idea of the film rather than sit and score along with specific images.

Although the use of strings, horns, and percussion (Zimmer classics) are all here, the addition of electronic elements set this collection apart from anything Zimmer has created previously. Adding to the mix was Smith’s guitarist, Johnny Marr, who brought a rock and roll edge to the collection. Plus, it takes a solid soundtrack to not only hold up on its own within a film like this, but to also work as a live performance at the film’s premiere. Just as different players helped construct and influence INCEPTION’S dream world, the same idea is shown here as different players and musicians come to the forefront, showcasing that although Zimmer is the mastermind (or the extractor, depending on how you look at it) it is the collaborative effort of all those involved that creates the overall collection. (The live stream of the performance can be viewed HERE).

The score is as immersive as the film itself and I found myself hearing something different with each listen. I am known for having film score play around the clock while at work as it creates background noise that is both subtle and inspiring. I found that this score is best played on its own, free of distractions, as it demands your full attention. You want to play this from beginning to end on a long car ride when you want to lose yourself in that dream world or put in your iPod ear buds and let Zimmer drop you back down through the different layers of a dream.

The soundtrack is appropriately wrapped up in the final track (also my favorite of the collection), “Time," which brings together all the elements introduced throughout the score and drives it with a sense of emotion that finds its climax in these final minutes. It is hard not to feel the emotional pull of time and all that it represents – the losing of it, the gaining of it, the complex nature of it, and the misleading, and sometimes confusing, intangibility of it. The final note, as it flies at you, works to try and knock you off-kilter, leaving you with that final question – did it?

This soundtrack is available through Warner Bros + Reprise Records.

1. "Half Remembered Dream”
2. “We Built Our Own World”
3. “Dream Is Collapsing”
4. “Radical Notion”
5. “Old Souls”
5. “528491”
6. “Mombasa"
7. “One Simple Idea"
8. “Dream Within A Dream”
9. “Waiting For A Train"
10. “Paradox”
11. “Time”

All the songs on this soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer.

Commenting Rules: Comments are intended to open up the discussion to our readers about the topics at hand, and as such should be offered with a positive and constructive attitude. If your comment is not relative to the above post or is disrespectful to the authors and readers, we reserve the right to delete it. Continued abuse of our good nature will result in banishment of the offender. Additionally, if you have any burning issues to point out to the GATW crew - typos, corrections, suggestions, or straight-up criticism - please email us instead of commenting here.

  • Tuneshepherd

    Great Review!

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Soundtrack Review: INCEPTION » --

  • Diego Acevedo

    Very nice review. Time is also my favorite track. Brings me back to the last moment of the film and all it's glory.

  • allisonloring

    Thanks Diego! Luckily with the soundtrack you can hit repeat right after it finishes, can't do that with the film yet! ;)

  • Nkscott

    Which song is played towards the end of the three deams when they are trying to wake everyone up?

  • allisonloring

    Thank you!

  • allisonloring

    I am due for a second viewing, but I BELIEVE the song was “Dream Within A Dream”

  • Hilton Krishman

    im writing this comment and watching rambo 3 at the same time lol. the bookends to the rocky kovies were mr favorites of the series..and yeah rocky balboa does tug on ones heart, it was hard for me to watch at a couple of points, most notably the meathouse scene with him and paualie.

  • Jere Xie

    Lola Corin

  • Minimum Wage

    I hope you have a good day! Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

  • Recent Post