The Last Samurai

Hans Zimmer

" touches your samurai soul "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

There has always been a constant in the career of director Edward Zwick, namely an emotional core. Usually this core is centered in a horrific time of war, making sure you receive a dramatic combination of human drama discovered in a troublesome time of despair. The next in line after all his human dramas is Tom Cruise as The Last Samurai (or is it Ken Watanabe?). Missing in the list is composer James Horner, who delivered perhaps one of the all time best scores for a Zwick film (Legends of the Fall). Now, considering Hans Zimmer delivered the audience such authentic taiko drumming in Pearl Harbor, Edward Zwick thought Hans Zimmer would be an excellent choice instead.

The score starts very softly with "A Way of Life", giving us after several minutes the subdued main theme of the score, showing us a theme that evokes both the beauty of the Samurai way as their honor. That way of life is felt in "Specters in the Fog" as the battling danger overpowers the end of the track, with a heroic version of the main theme at the end. Notice as well the Samurai theme that's hinted in the begin.

The track "Taken" continues to state the Samurai theme as the warriors have taken Tom Cruise captive, showing their mighty presence due to a strong appearance of their theme. In "A Hard Teacher" there is no room for force, so Zimmer's music carefully flows around the main theme to show once again the Samurai way, and this counts as well when the samurai theme soars with strings after a taiko intermezzo in "To Know my Enemy".

Zimmer continues to create long tracks that develop to strong theme performances, and in "Idyll's End" you could hear a combination of both the main theme and samurai theme in one brilliant heroic variation. The main theme soars with additional flutes over "Safe Passage" while "Ronin" pounds away on taiko drums, but for me the highlight is "Red Warrior". "Red Warrior" is unique since it uses shouting warrior vocals in a musical melodic way. Being supported with the excellent samurai theme, it leads to another brilliant main theme version. It's basically Zimmer at his best, and the inclusion of this melodic vocalization is stunningly effective.

But it isn't over yet with the praising, as the first minutes of 'The Way of the Sword' are equally stunning. Using string lines to take the taiko drums into an attacking musical composition, the brass shouts Gladiator at times, delivering you a couple of minutes that form emotion and power into one. Just like Tears of the Sun did with "Cameroon Border Post"), Zimmer continues to show he is a master in these situations. The second part shows us the other typical voice of Zimmer, with a reflective wash of strings dying as the last samurai dies as well.

The last track is basically a return to the soft writing of the first track, with wonderful cello solos to boot.

Now if Gladiator was powerful, raw and relentless (while equally moving at times), then The Last Samurai goes deeper so it can touch the soul. The spiritual thought that transcends from Zimmer's music is not one to be taken lightly, and shows that Zimmer can stand his samurai in whatever genre. Nominated for an Oscar in 2003, it's yet another Zimmer score that won many hearts.


1. A Way of Life (8.03)
2. Specters in the Fog (4.07) Excellent track
3. Taken (3.35)
4. A Hard Teacher (5.44)
5. To Know my Enemy (4.48)
6. Idyll's End (6.40) Excellent track
7. Safe Passage (4.56)
8. Ronin (1.53)
9. Red Warrior (3.56) Excellent track
10. The Way of the Sword (7.58) Excellent track
11. A Small Measure of Peace (7.59)

Total Length: 59.47
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 48 votes - average 4.5/5)

Released by

Elektra 62932-2 (regular release 2003)

Conducted by

Blake Neely

Orchestrations by

Bruce Fowler, Suzette Moriarty & Ladd McIntosh

Performed by

The Hollywood Studio Symphony