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Soundtrack review: Snowden (orchestral score) (Craig Armstrong – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Snowden (orchestral score) (Craig Armstrong – 2016)


“Snowden” is a 2016 biographical political thriller film directed by Oliver Stone and written by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald. The film is based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. The cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Logan Marshall-Green, Timothy Olyphant, Ben Schnetzer, LaKeith Lee Stanfield, Rhys Ifans and Nicolas Cage. The film follows Edward Snowden, an American computer professional who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency to The Guardian in June 2013. Among other things, the classified information revealed extensive illegal cyber-snooping on millions of unsuspecting American citizens which was unknown to even Congress at the time.

I am not a big fan of the main character but I know Oliver Stone can deliver some intriguing political thrillers. The score has an interesting story in that there are two separate releases: one features the film music by Craig Armstrong and Adam Peters and one featuring just the orchestral score by Armstrong. This is a review of the latter. I found enough enjoyment in the electronic score and I like that there are two score releases with different version of the same cue. I usually want to hear as much as possible from the recording sessions.

Even if this is the mainly orchestral score the electronic elements that tie the music to the story couldn’t miss. Craig Armstrong alternates the two and keeps the score varied. This is one of the things I like about “Snowden”: Oliver Stone usually has more composers or songwriters for his movies and never keeps the same mood throughout and this time he made it work even with just Craig Armstrong. The music is not confined into a box but just like the information that represents the point of the Snowden story, it flows freely.

Once again there will be cues in here that will be polarizing because a piece like “Static (Antye Greie (AGF) Remix)” is not for everyone. I’ve always enjoyed musical experiments and this one works for me in certain moods.

When I listen to a score that has a lot of ambient or atmospheric moments I enjoy the most that feeling of reflection; the music feels as if it’s not a direct image but one reflected in the surface of a lake. Sometimes it gleams, other times waves alter it a bit and this is the mood that dominates “Snowden” for me. This is why I am enjoying this score; not for some specific highlights or memorable cues but for the overall intriguing mood.

Cue rating: 75 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 10 / 56

Album excellence: 18%


Burden of truth

Data card

Hunting speech

Snowden Moscow Variation



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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