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Soundtrack review: Hero (Tan Dun – 2002)

Composer of the month perfect scores The expendables month

Soundtrack review: Hero (Tan Dun – 2002)



If you see enough movies in your life, there comes a time when they begin to blend together and you start having a hard time remembering what bit impressed you in each of them. But as time goes by, the truly amazing ones tend to surface and rise above the others. Movies come and go like waves hitting the shore, but the rocks are still standing. Time passes and their memory gets stronger and stronger.

“Hero” is one such movie for me. I have no trouble naming this Chinese wuxia (martial hero) historical piece among the three most visually stunning movies I have ever seen. It’s “The expendables month” here and I am using this excuse (as if I needed one) to review Tan Dun’s mesmerizing score for this movie. It stars Jet Li, so there’s your expendable, even if “Hero” is about as far away from “The Expendables” as one movie can get. This truly is one a masterpiece of unparalleled splendor. If you haven’t seen it, please do. It will leave you mesmerized.

The movie’s central idea is “Everyone under the same sky / heaven”. The heaven that unites us all in this case is Tan Dun’s music, while the sun that brings life is Itzhak Perlman with his violin. His sensitivity never ceases to amaze me. Whenever I see his name on a movie score, I rush to get it, because I am guaranteed bliss rarely attainable while listening to other compositions. I was happy to find him here as well, after his immortal themes for movies like “Schindler’s list” or “Memoirs of a geisha”. There’s no other artist or instrument capable of transposing the unreal beauty on screen through our ears into our souls. The movie’s main theme “For the world” will make your heart shiver and you will feel it with every cell of your body.

The music falls around you like the autumn leaves on the stillest of lakes. Each cue is more beautiful and tender than the one before. When Perlman’s divine violin rests, we get a heavenly Chinese soprano voice in the background, or unique sounds played by Liu Li on the guqin instrument. When the action moves, the Chinese choirs will make you tremble and you will feel surrounded. I refuse to single out cues from this score, because the entire composition is magnificent. It will warm your heart and make you dream your most beautiful dreams. It is a journey you will never forget. It will leave an echo inside you that will never be silenced. It will resonate with your heartbeats for as long as you live.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 55 / 55

Album excellence: 100%


Hero: Overture performed by Perlman (violin) & KODO

For the World – Theme Music performed by Perlman (violin)

Warriors performed by Perlman (violin) & KODO

Gone With Leaves performed by Perlman (violin) & KODO and You Yan (soprano)

Longing performed by Perlman (violin)

At Emperor’s Palace performed by Tan Dun (violin) & KODO

In The Chess Court performed by Perlman (violin) & KODO & Liu Li (guqin)

Love In Distance performed by Tan Dun (violin)

Spirit Fight performed by Tan Dun (violin) & KODO

Swift Sword performed by Tan Dun (violin) & KODO

Farewell, Hero performed by Tan Dun (violin) & KODO

Sorrow In Desert performed by Tan Dun (violin) & KODO

Home performed by Liu Li (gu qin)

Above Water

Snow performed by KODO

Yearning For The Peace performed by Perlman (violin) & KODO

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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