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.
Continue reading: The Program Review
Danny Boyle is obviously having a ball with this thriller, deploying every cinematic trick he can think of to throw the audience off the track. But sometimes too much of a good thing is annoying. And while this film holds our interest, it also reveals early on that we simply can't trust anything we see on-screen. So while it's expertly shot and edited, and the actors make the most of their shifty characters, it's not easy to just sit back and enjoy the show.
McAvoy stars as Simon, an auctioneer presiding over the sale of a £30 million Goya painting, which promptly goes missing after an elaborate heist. Simon suffers a head injury in the assault, and can't remember anything, which is a problem when it turns out that he was working with criminal mastermind Franck (Cassel). Now Franck and his goons (Sapani, Cross and Sheikh) want to know where the painting is, so they enlist hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Dawson) to help Simon recover his memory using a series of unconventional methods. But she wants her share of the cash.
Yes, the further they travel into Simon's mind, the stranger things get. McAvoy has little to do here but look dazed in between moments of lucidity that generally spark something horribly violent. Opposite his understated performance, Cassel can hardly help but be a lot flashier as a menacing charmer. And Dawson has a fierce presence as a woman who quickly takes control of every situation she's in. Although Dawson also has to contend with a couple of leery nude scenes that go further than what was strictly necessary.
Continue reading: Trance Review
Jack (Winstone) is a grizzled veteran of the Flying Squad, known in rhyming slang as "the Sweeney", an elite team of undercover London cops who deal with armed crime. His right-hand man and protege is George (Drew), and as they investigate a suspiciously messy jewellery heist, they are distracted when internal affairs officer Lewis (Mackintosh) starts looking for a reason to shut them down. Their captain (Lewis) tries to help, but things are complicated by the fact that Jack is having an affair with Lewis' wife (Atwell).
Continue reading: The Sweeney Review
Many a confused moviegoer has already asked me what the heck this film is about, since the trailer makes it out to be something akin to, er, Lord of the Flies. The movie, based on the novel by Alex Garland, traces the Thailand trip of young Richard (DiCaprio), who in Bangkok encounters a crazy guy named Daffy (Carlyle, who has nary an understandable line of dialogue in the whole movie).
Continue reading: The Beach Review
From the get-go, this film begins to close its fingers around your neck and never lets go. The eerie feeling that something is just not quite right is present from the beginning, even before things take a turn for the worse. Of course they inevitably do, when the trio's newly found roommate, Hugo, suddenly dies in his room. Lo and behold, next to the body the three find a suitcase containing a million pounds, and after some debate, they decide to keep it and bury its previous owner in--you guessed it--a shallow grave.
Continue reading: Shallow Grave Review
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