The Last Samurai [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

Hans Zimmer

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The Last Samurai [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] Review

by Heather Phares

Hans Zimmer's score for Edward Zwick's samurai epic The Last Samurai mixes his own densely composed style with Japanese instruments and melodies, resulting in a brooding, atmospheric collection of music. Shakuhachi and other flutes, koto, and taiko drums make their presence known throughout the score, most effectively on compositions like "A Way of Life," which begins as a reflective duet for flute and strings before swelling into an ominous but majestic melody. "Spectres in the Fog" is another compelling mix of beauty and violence, starting with a delicate koto melody and rolling drums before crashing percussion and sawing strings turn the mood from bittersweet to battle-ready. These drums of war and battle cries increase as the score unfolds, making tracks such as "Safe Passage," "Ronin," and "Red Warrior" nearly as tense and striking outside of the film's context as they are in it. The score's quieter moments are just as thoughtfully crafted, with "Taken," "A Hard Teacher," and "Idyll's End" adding restraint and balancing the more explosive tracks. The Last Samurai flows from track to track seamlessly; indeed, its lengthy, multi-part compositions give it the feel of one long, shifting composition. Its Asian melodies and emphasis on percussion are reminiscent of Tan Dun's score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but this score is both more somber and more lush, particularly on its closing pieces, "The Way of the Sword" and "A Small Measure of Peace." Both of these tracks mix gravity and hope into a somber conclusion to a somber but expertly crafted score that ranks among Zimmer's finest work.

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