"You will be charmed, chewed up and chundered right back out again by Foster’s devilishly uncanny performance of this lying and manipulative athlete"
Lance Armstong. An unstoppable sportsman. Cancer didn’t even stop him. In fact, it appeared to make him stronger winning the Tour De France not once, not twice but 7 consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. No one had ever done that, he had the world rooting for him, but one person trusted their instincts and simply couldn’t buy it; sports reporter David Walsh, couldn’t have been more right.
Based on Walsh’s book ‘Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance’, this theatrical re-telling is insightfully fascinating and brings forth a deep rooted sense of frustration as the ugly truth reveals itself. This is by no means a complete re-hash of Alex Gibney’s documentary ‘The Armstrong Lie’; as director Stephan Frear takes Walsh’s crystal doping evidence as well as illustrating the terrifying traits this man embodies when denying all claims against drug use when he was using virtually all of them. After conquering testicular cancer, Armstrong created a perfect, mythical life, full of everything he had ever wanted – and in his own words “Why ruin that?” Why admit that your victories were the result of cheating, when you have it all? As Foster arrogantly repeats, ‘I have never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs’ to his sycophantic reflection, there is no doubt about it; you will be charmed, chewed up and chundered right back out again by Foster’s devilishly uncanny performance of this lying and manipulative athlete.
Cleverly gaining even more supporters by tying everything into a neat little bow with the Livestrong charity it’s this turning point that Foster replicates how disturbingly insane Lance becomes as he gets in deeper. Continuing with the fashion statement of virtually everyone having a yellow band glued to their wrists, one shudders as we see how this man abuses his body just to gain a title. Riddled with EPO, testosterone, pumping himself full of fresh blood when drug tests were due, Dr. Ferrari’s (Guillaume Canet) program was rigorous and one slip was could cost you everything. Whilst it seemed everyone was using performance enhancing drugs, to get caught as riding partner Floyd Landis (Jesse Plemons) does, is suicide – no one comes back from that.
Whilst the narrative remained intact, certain aspects feel rushed. Anything that isn’t to do with cycling was brushed over as quickly as Lance makes the decision to start doping. Albeit - why focus on anything else but training, drug taking and winning – Lance certainly didn’t. The use of Dustin Hoffman seemed unnecessary and such scenes would have had the same effect even if an unknown actor was delivering the lines. It was refreshing to see comedy genius Chris O’Dowd as Walsh falling into a role not entirely lacking in sarcasm but a much more serious one than we have seen him in before. At times, the somewhat intruding soundtrack diluted the overall message, yet if the film didn’t have such uplifting moments, this would have been an entirely different film indeed.
As soon as the credits roll, it is near impossible to fight the urge to go and research everything about the delusional egomaniac who lied to so many people, so many fans and destroyed countless of lives in the process. The Program is undoubtedly an enthralling watch. With expected, but not entirely glossed over with cinematic reconstructions when it comes such narratives this will entertain and certainly open anyone’s eyes who had previously refused to consider all the facts when it comes to Armstrong.