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Sherlock Holmes
  • Composed by Hans Zimmer
  • Sony Classical 88697630662 / 2010 / 52:29

It’s fair to say that Guy Ritchie’s career didn’t go quite as well as expected after the success of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and his subsequent marriage to, and divorce from, Madonna.  Things seem to have got rather back on track with his radical reimagining of Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. as the legendary detective.  Ritchie’s films aren’t renowned for their great scores, but for this one he turned to Hollywood’s most prominent (and controversial) composer, Hans Zimmer.

One thing’s for sure – this isn’t like any Sherlock Holmes music that’s been written before.  Another thing’s for sure – it is very much like an awful lot of other music that’s been written before.  Your ability to cope with those two situations will probably dictate your enjoyment of it.  As for the first, actually the sonic world Zimmer has chosen for this score seems somehow entirely appropriate for this take on Holmes, with some inspiration taken from gypsy music.  It’s miles away from the stately music one might usually associate with this character – but then, the character’s never been as he is in this film before.

Hans Zimmer

Perhaps more controversial is the second point – the music might be new for Holmes, but it’s not new.  The main theme – brilliantly effective – skirts pretty close to Morton’s theme from Ennio Morricone’s timeless Once Upon a Time in the West; and other parts sound like they may be discarded cues from Batman Begins or Pirates of the Caribbean (the Kraken theme in particular).  Almost all of Sherlock Holmes sounds like something else – but Zimmer and his team do avoid any direct lifts (I believe).

To his credit, he actually manages to work all this stuff together into a very cohesive package – it doesn’t sound like a hodge-podge collection of material from elsewhere, ever – and to that end, I can’t say that it bothers me.  (The James Southall of ten years ago would probably have gone apoplectic, but the passing of time does rather dullen reactions to this sort of thing.)  What I particularly like is the very scratchy, almost feral feel Zimmer has achieved – it seems to capture the spirit of the film perfectly.

As an album, this is Zimmer’s most entertaining since the final Pirates score a couple of years earlier – while it’s very repetitive, the material is decent enough that it doesn’t matter too much.  Zimmer’s the most limited A-list film composer there’s ever been in terms of the range of projects he’s able to sensibly work on (though he still frequently works on ones he’s incapable of doing, which is where the problems start) – but when it comes off, the results can be very stylish and entertaining.  And Sherlock Holmes does indeed come off.  *** 1/2

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