The Last Samurai (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer available at



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The Last Samurai (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

"The Zim Master"
Review by Christopher Coleman


The Last Samurai (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

The Last Samurai

The Last Samurai (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer


Category    Score

Originality 8
Music Selection 9
Composition 9
CD Length 9
Track Order 9
Performance 9
Final Score 9/10


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"A rare solo score by Zimmer these days, The Last Samurai could very well follow the success of the film during the awards season."

Christian Clemmensen- Filmtracks Reviews
The Last Samurai




Composed, Arranged and Produced by Hans Zimmer
Additional Arrangements and programming by Geoof Zanelli,
Blake Neely, Clever Trevor Morris
Orchestra Conducted by Blake Neely
Performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony
Soloists: Delores Clay (Vocals), Craig Eastman (Fiddle), Steve Erdody (Cello), Benjamin Hale (Navajo Voices), June Kuramoto (Koto), Emil Richards (Taiko Drum),
Bill Schultz (Shakuhachi), Fred Selden - Flute & Ethnic Woodwinds,
Hans Zimmer (synthesizers)
Released by Elecktra Records on November 25, 2003

Zimjitsu, the Way of the Zim, is the harmonious blending of the ancient and the contemporary - a synthesis of the organic and the electronic that are, at most times, experienced as an undefinable musical bliss. One hundred scores ago, the Way of the Zim was born. Although it existed for many years, in one form or another, Zimjitsu was truly birthed between the days of A World Apart and the season of the Black Rain. Since then, Zimjitsu has been adopted by many who have in turn made their own musical-marks in this life, but, as it has been ordained, there can be only one master of the Zim.

At first, the choice of Hans Zimmer for this Edward-Zwick-directed, John-Toll- photographed film, might seem curious. A "James," of either the Newton-Howard or Horner varieties, might be the most natural choice, and surely either one could have done an exceptional job.  Still, with a few listens-through of Hans Zimmer's effort, it appears that The Last Samurai was his destiny. Those who have shown weakness can now have faith and confidence that The Zim Master's beautiful yet sublime score will match the epic, onscreen images to come in December.

The Last Samurai is a sometimes potent, sometimes subtle, but never boring listen - well worthy of being the composer's 100th score. Those familiar with Hans Zimmer's considerable body of work may recognize elements from both his early career and from his more recent projects, but the most remarkable characteristic is the unique listening experience The Last Samurai affords despite these ties. Within the score, lies a near-perfect balance between the tranquil and the ominous. And perhaps it is the closest the Zim Master has ever come towards this balance, but as all good students of Zimjitsu know, "absolute balance" is but an illusion. The Last Samurai is an musical tutor that clearly demonstrates the 4 major tenets of Zimjitsu pertaining to: tranquility, power, purity, and the past and is worthy of further reflection.

Tenet 1 - "Always begin from a place of simple tranquility."

"A Way of Life" (1)Track 1 is a contemplative beginning to The Last Samurai. The piece combines the yearning of Tan Dun's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with the wandering ethereal quality identified with some of Hans Zimmer's most beloved works. The tranquility of this track as with the other more docile moments of the score are derived from soft, flowing strings, and short, melodious shakuhachi or cello solos. "A Hard Teacher" (4) extends beyond the traits of peace and harmony and, by its ending, reaches that which is closest to "absolute balance" - love.

Tenet 2 - "When peace is threatened, might is required."

As most who have followed the career of Hans Zimmer know, when the Zim Master lets the full force of his music fly, it is best experienced at a safe distance! "To Know My Enemy" (5) mysteriously wonders for the first half, but then, without warning, explodes with taiko drums and a myriad of other percussions. "Ronin" (8) features one of the soundtrack's most potent portions of music. At just over a minute into this short track, the music erupts with the full brunt of the taiko drums pounding out a brief march. "Red Warrior" (9) Track 9is the most ferocious piece on the soundtrack. Here, the main theme is overlaid with expansive gongs, sharp anvil strikes, and surprising war-cries. 

Tenet 3 - "Few things in this life are pure."

As Zimjitsu states, few things can be defined as purely one thing or purely another. In the effort to maintain the universal balance, nearly every track of The Last Samurai has both moments of serenity and moments of power. This is well exemplified in track 1. After 4 minutes of tranquil interlude, the music takes a fearsome turn as swells of synthesized instruments, strings and brass build to a crescendo. While "Spectres in the Fog" (2) begins with the most "eastern" portion of the score, it soon introduces one of the more memorable motifs and then proceeds into a pensive dissonance featuring, gongs, bells, and anvils. Before concluding, track 2 finally returns to a forceful performance of the theme introduced at the conclusion of track 1. Finally, "The Way of the Sword" (10) Track 10features yet another aggressive stint of music, but is balanced out by a beautiful elegy at its conclusion.

Tenet 4 - "Forget not the past, but do not be defined by it."

The Last Samurai, at times, may be reminiscent of previous works from the master and causing some listeners to be disquieted. Even the novice Zimjitsu student does well to avoid the mistake of expecting one tree to bear different tasting fruit. While The Last Samurai pays its respects to works such as Beyond Rangoon, Thin Red Line, The Prince of Egypt, and even Gladiator, it is certainly not a simple reincarnation of any of these. To limit the description of this score to any one or combination of these would not only be inaccurate but a great insult.

As wonderful an experience as The Last Samurai is, as with all things, it is not perfect. Some may find fault with it sounding "too familiar" for their tastes or even too "western." However, the greatest imbalance of this release is none of these things but is its coverart. Of all the artwork produced for this film, the most displeasing of the lot has been chosen for the compact disc. (Some things in life are even beyond Zimjitsu to explain!) If one is a faithful follower of Zimjitsu, the distasteful cover will not be a hindrance from buying and enjoying both the peace and the power of this score.

The Zim Master has, on occasion, been sent on diverse quests such as: The search for An Everlasting Piece, The mystery of As Good as it Gets, and the search for the mythic Matchstick Men. Because of these excursions, the question of "Just who is the master of Zimjitsu?" has slowly made its way into minds of some. But every so often, when deemed necessary, Hans Zimmer boldy declares to all who have an ear to hear, that he is still the master. The Last Samurai is simply his latest reminder.

Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 A Way of Life Track 1 8:03  *****
2 Spectres in the Fog 4:07  ****
3 Taken 3:36  ****
4 A Hard Teacher 5:44  ****
5 To Know My Enemy 4:48  ****
6 Idyll's End 6:40  ****
7 Safe PassageTrack 7 4:56  *****
8 Ronin 1:53  ****
9 Red WarriorTrack 10 3:56  ****
10 The Way of the Sword Track 11 7:59  *****
11 A Small Measure of Peace 7:59  *****

Total Running Time


The Last Samurai (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
  Gladiator Beyond Rangoon




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