A simple mathematical equation: Hans Zimmer + Christopher Nolan = Epic. Two legends of their fields at the absolute peak of their powers, when Zimmer and Nolan are working together you can guarantee the OST of the year.
The two men first worked with each other on the score for Nolan's first foray into the world of the Dark Knight, 2005's Batman Begins. Working with another great film composer, James Newton Howard, Zimmer helped create a score that completely captured the dark and dangerous world of Gotham City and, with the theme of its hero (a simple two-note rise), Zimmer and Howard send shivers up the spine.
Nolan and Zimmer worked alone on 2008's The Dark Knight, and went even further into creating a sound that encapsulates the mood and setting. The simple two-note Joker theme Why So Serious? is a terrifyingly effective piece that gives the viewer or listener a sense of dread, knowing that something bad is about to happen, or that The Joker could appear at any moment. Heath Ledger's incredible performance as The Joker is elevated even further by this menacing screech.
Zimmer had been invited to work alone on Batman, but Zimmer insisted on bringing Newton Howard along to collaborate, something that Zimmer did again on the Inception soundtrack. Only this time it isn't another film composer, but Manchester's legendary former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.
Whilst Zimmer's scores for The Dark Knight Trilogy are epic in scale, the Inception score has a sad, melancholic tone throughout. The epic is still very much present, but the sadness that follows Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who is plagued by the loss of his wife, is ever present in the music. At times it is almost as if the music is the ghost of Cobb's wife, a burden that won't go away and accompanies him wherever he goes. It ensures that you empathise with his character, and is a perfect marriage of storytelling, great acting and a superb score.
"What I was writing was nostalgia and sadness," Zimmer told the LA Times in 2010. "This character carries this sadness all the time that he cannot express. He's been telling us about it all along, but no one knows how to listen. I think the job that Johnny and I had to do was write the heart of this thing."
The best example of this is the final piece on the soundtrack, simply called Time. Starting with a simple piano, it slowly builds into a sweeping epic, yet when Johnny Marr's guitar comes in towards the end it lends the piece a romantic, almost hopeful tone. When you couple this with the final images of Inception, with Cobb returning home to his family at last, the perfect union of music and film - Zimmer and Nolan - is complete.