In Terrence Malick’s existential anti-war epic The Thin Red Line, a pivotal scene featured US soldiers slowly impinging upon an invisible enemy, unequipped to deal with what was confronting them. It was a study of chaos and vulnerability, with the theme of the movie – the utter futility and grim banality of war – distilled down to this one scene. It was veteran soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer’s accompanying piece entitled ‘Journey To The Line’ – a haunting, ever expanding slow-build of clicking percussion and swelling strings that builds to an almost unbearable coda – that gave this scene its visceral power. To hear it live, stripped of its cinematic context, takes nothing away from it.
It comes in the second half of tonight’s show, when pieces from less feted movies like Sherlock Holmes, The Da Vinci Code and Pirates Of The Caribbean have already come and gone. For ‘Journey To The Line’, proceedings take a more sombre tone with the enormous semi-circular screen at the back of the stage slowly showing a flickering line expanding to a wash of deep, bloody red, a not-so-subtle hint to the movie it’s taken from. It’s these moments that resonate most at the 3Arena tonight. Sure, Zimmer can do jaunty and frivolous and bombastic but it’s the more introspective cuts from his collaborations with director Christopher Nolan like ‘Day One’ from Interstellar and ‘Time’ from Inception, along with ‘Journey To The Line’, that leave the most resounding impact.
To have that impact you need quite an array of talented musicians at your disposal, and that he certainly does. A choir, an orchestra, a suite of drummers, several female violinists, a double-bass player, a handful of guitarists and possibly even a kitchen-sink form a vast configuration on stage, an audience of musicians looking back at us. It works brilliantly most of the time, especially on the four-part Gladiator medley, but at times nuance is lost with the choir especially failing to be heard above a cacophony of string-instruments, electric guitars and frantic percussion. A traditional Irish set by two local musicians is a somewhat jarring diversion but it inevitably brings some of the biggest cheers of the night.
After the interval, Zimmer goes full-on rock, bordering even on metal, in the more intense, surprisingly loud second-half of the show, with a generous selection of tracks from The Dark Knight and Interstellar. One gets the impression Zimmer and gang are just getting started. The protracted running-time can perhaps be blamed on the 59-year old German’s long introductions to some of the pieces and his eagerness to praise his troupe of talented musicians. The master of proceedings is happy to chat to the audience at length, giving the impression he is relishing being away from, as he says, ‘his windowless studio’ back home.
Towards the end, as swathes of attendees are already heading for the exits, piercingly bright searchlights scan the audience before the encore, which features the aforementioned suite of compositions from Inception. It’s pitch-perfect and as slick as the big-budget movies he scores, and with a brief strike of violin, it’s over. Zimmer lines up his musicians and gives each a hug – he seems genuinely in awe of them. In truth, though, none of us would be here if it wasn’t for his unique way to pierce the heart with the music he creates. An emotionally draining and rather extraordinary night at the movies.