The Program

"Very Good"

The Program Review


A whooshing pace and snappy dialogue help bring this true story to life, tracing the triumphant and scandalous career of cyclist Lance Armstrong. And the energetic approach helps bring out several layers in Armstrong's perspective, exploring why a top sportsman would cheat to win. It also features a steely performance from Ben Foster that captures Armstrong's physicality and personality, but not in the usual ways.

When he was 25, Armstrong (Foster) was already a star, but his career was cut short in 1996 by advanced testicular cancer. After recovering, he retrained himself as a long-distance cyclist and launched a global cancer charity, then went on to win seven Tour de France titles. His friend, Irish journalist David Walsh (Chris O'Dowd) noticed that his improvement was too good to be true, and continually challenged him to be honest about his work with controversial doctor Michele Ferari (Guillaume Canet). Armstrong defended his name in court, but years later the truth came out that throughout his career he had been systematically cheating with banned drugs and blood-cleansing processes. The truth came out in 2010, but he didn't admit the deception until an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013.

Since this was so thoroughly reported in the media, and finely detailed in Alex Gibney's acclaimed documentary The Armstrong Lie, there aren't any surprises in this movie. And despite being based on Walsh's book Seven Deadly Sins, the film takes Armstrong's perspective, trying to get under his skin to reveal his motivation. John Hodge's screenplay is insightful, building some strong dramatic suspense along the way, and the film is sharply well-directed by Stephen Frears, a filmmaker better known for softer movies (like Philomena and The Queen). But he guides Foster to a strikingly physical performance that's sweaty and aggressive, and also darkly internalised. Stand-outs in the supporting cast include Jesse Plemons as a fellow cyclist haunted by his conscience and Denis Menochet as Armstrong's team manager.

The film cleverly inserts Foster into some harrowing race sequences, kinetically shot by cinematographer Danny Cohen and edited to a breakneck pace by Valerio Bonelli. Most intriguing is the way the film tells a story of a man who triumphed over unspeakable adversity, revelling in the heroic spotlight while compulsively indulging in illegal activities that he surely must have known would catch up with him one day. This moral conundrum adds fascinating depth to this film, and makes it relevant to anyone who lives in a society that encourages people to win at any cost.

Rich Cline

Watch the trailer for The Program here:




The Program

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th October 2015

Distributed by: Buena Vista

Production compaines: StudioCanal, Working Title Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 11

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , , Kate Solomon

Starring: as Lance Armstrong, as David Walsh, as Floyd Landis, as Bill Stapleton, as Medecin Michele Ferrari

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