Hans Zimmer, after writing what I think is his best work of all time in Gladiator, took a complete left turn with Mission: Impossible 2. Whereas Gladiator featured a humongous orchestra, soloists, chorus, ethnic instruments, and a vocalist, M:I-2 is scored exclusively for a "band" made up of mostly electric guitars, sampled strings, and various electronic keyboards. Additionally, the composer utilizes flamenco dancers, Spanish guitars, and Lisa Gerrard (whose vocals added immeasureably to Gladiator) for an exotic twist, at times even melding this with the rock elements, making for a fun listening experience that most will identify with. Hollywood Records' release features just over 45 minutes of music, preserving all the highlights without allowing the heavy metal to wear out its welcome. If you need further proof of its merits, just look at me - I've always despised rock scores with a passion, but M:I-2 managed to transcend this hatred. Of course, it's a "Guilty Pleasure" score, but then again, what Zimmer album isn't? Where else can you find a huge 4-part chorus accompanied by huge electric guitar riffs?
1. Hijack (4:09)
From the very start, Zimmer makes it clear that M:I-2 isn't going to be your typical orchestral score. After a subtle introduction for electronic bass, the main thematic material for the track enters in guitar - an upbeat, modern rock riff! This idea weaves throughout the rest of the track, at points utilizing thunderous male chorus. Much of the rest of the piece features foreboding electronic rhythms, at one point introducing a (sampled) string theme. The final section, after a huge guitar riff, becomes a heavy, Metallica-inspired action piece.
2. Iko Iko (3:23)
An annoying world-flavored rock song.
3. Seville (4:32)
Zimmer abruptly takes a right-hand turn into flamenco territory, a sound that will permeate much of the rest of the score. The main flamenco theme is introduced on Spanish guitars, immersed in a rich dance atmosphere, complete with clapping and stomping. After a short interlude in which Lisa Gerrard makes her first exotic appearance, the dance theme returns, now accompanied by the rest of Zimmer's "band." Finally, Gerrard's vocals end the cue with another of the main themes, which will come to full fruition towards the end of the album.
4. Nyah (Film Version) (2:20)
Spanish guitarist Heitor Pereira presents another flamenco-inspired theme for Nyah, as a companion piece to her other theme from Seville. I prefer the version on the song compilation, which adds an entirely different flavor to the film version's calm acoustics.
5. Mission: Impossible Theme (:39)
Zimmer's main titles to the film involve a heavy rock approach to Schifrin's main theme that sounds remarkably similar to Metallica's cover arrangement for the song compilation.
6. The Heist (2:22)
Zimmer bases this track around another new theme, which doesn't recur anywhere else in the score. It's quite bluesy, almost jazz-like, but its biggest quirk is the orchestration - it begins with the same flamenco sensibility that pervaded earlier tracks, and soon delves into the typical rock instrumentation - weird because of its foundation in jazz. Overall, however, it doesn't add much to the album.
7. Ambrose (2:37)
One of the highlights of the album, this takes the ominous theme from "Hijack" and places it in a continually building orchestral arrangement that moves from dark colorings in the bass to a full string presentation, complete with dark male chorus.
8. Bio-Techno (1:42)
One of the album's major flaws, this is a completely incoherent techno abomination. That statement was not a judgment against techno itself (although I personally don't care for it) - it's just that the piece is schizophrenic and makes no sense.
9. Injection (4:49)
Perhaps my favorite track of the score, this wild ride turns one of Nyah's themes into something akin to Gladiator's "Now We Are Free." It begins subtly with a pulsing guitar ostinato, gradually coalescing into the heavenly voice of Lisa Gerrard, who expands Nyah's theme into a whirlwind of tone color. Zimmer continually builds on the accompaniment, and Gerrard and the band proceed to create almost an indescribable feeling of euphoria.
10. Bare Island (5:30)
Or is this my favorite track? Another guitar ostinato starts up, and Zimmer features a reprise of the theme from Hijack, now with strings and soprano chorus. After an uncomfortable period of silence, the chorus enters, singing a tragic chant that soon proves to derive from the Hijack theme. Then the track truly begins with a lengthy rock version of Schifrin's main theme reminiscent of both the main titles and Metallica's version. The bulk of the rest of the cue develops Hijack's thematic material further, climaxing in an eerie return to Nyah's theme, voiced by Gerrard.
11. Chimera (1:42)
This consists mainly of cacophonous electronic rhythms and sound FX bookending a brief Spanish guitar version of Nyah's theme.
12. The Bait (1:00)
Another pounding rendition of Lalo Schifrin's theme forms this track, again reminiscent of the main title.
13. Mano a Mano (4:22)
A militaristic timpani and snare ostinato serves as the foundation of the final action cue. Ingeniously, Zimmer inserts a terrified vocalization of Nyah's theme into this section, demonstrating once again that it is essentially the centerpiece of the score. Finally, the ostinato overwhelms it and transforms the climax into a primal display of power. After a final plea by Gerrard's vocals, we segue to:
14. Mission: Accomplished (1:44)
This presents an upbeat version of another of Nyah's themes (the one featured at the beginning of track 4) for multiple acoustic guitars.
15. Nyah and Ethan (5:06)
To cap off the score, Zimmer provides an evocative, almost rapturous concert suite for Spanish guitars based on the Nyah theme from Seville.
In summation, if you're a die-hard Zimmerite or want something "different"
in a score, the rock-based M:I-2 is the way to go. I found myself pleasantly
surprised - and I usually LOATHE rock scores.