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Review - The Program

By midlandsmovies, Mar 3 2016 03:59PM

The Program (2016) Dir. Stephen Frears

The Program is a British-French film which encompasses the controversial story of cycling legend (and now infamous cheat) Lance Armstrong during his unprecedented seven consecutive Tour De France wins.

Starring an insanely good Ben Foster as Armstrong himself, the actor plays the arrogant and egotistical athlete to perfection. He also does a great job at finding and exposing, a bit at a time, the weaknesses of a man obsessed by winning at all costs.

Chris O'Dowd play Irish sports journalist David Walsh (the film is based upon his book Seven Deadly Sins) who ultimately uncovers the deceit but is discredited throughout by Armstrong and his cronies. Pedalling through the narrative, the film leaps to the pivotal points in Armstrong’s dishonesty from his introduction to performance enhancing drugs via Michele Ferrari (played by a suitably sleazy Guillaume Canet) to his eventual role as “dealer” to others on his team. Injections, blood transfusions and avoiding tests are shown in scientific and matter of fact terms before the repetition of these images becomes the norm – as it did to Lance.

Foster is also convincing because he plays Armstrong as a man who truly believes his own lies and caught up in a world of his own making. The lies continue as the rider attempts to diffuse the controversy with references to his (real-life) battle with cancer and the related charity he subsequently set up – diverting attention from his fabrications by pointing a wagging finger to (what he labels) “unsympathetic” journalists.

Frears lets the performances do most of the talking (sometimes literally) and the methodical construction of the movie aligns itself to the precise thought-out motions the cyclists went through to beat the system.

With the focus on the chase, Frears doesn’t sprint to the ending but lets the story unfold slowly which captures how the frustrated and sometimes vilified Walsh tried to pursue Armstrong for over a decade.

With little fanfare, some may say it could have focused a bit more on the rivalries and racing, the film wisely shows what was hiding behind the scenes of the well-known competition rather than the glitzy contest. There are some well shot landscapes with sweeping camera moves down the Alps for mountain time-trails but the real winner here is Foster though. A great performance of a criticised racer, he fully encapsulates the nose dive that was Lance’s career and that special individual big-headedness that only a failed competitor still holds on to.


Midlands Movies Mike

Mar 3 2016 05:54PM by Luc

7/10? Really? I don’t know if we watched the same movie then, because not only it’s a mediocre Lifetime-style TV movie, but also foster’s performance is cartoonish and over the top, as his usual. There’s reason why after it’s Toronto premiere the movie went into oblivion, Foster’s performance was said to be lacking of nuance by The Hollywood Reporter, had a hard time finding a US distributor and finally ended premiering on Direct TV. The Guardian called the movie a flop and wrote Foster is not leading man material. Is not worth seeing this crap, way better if you watch The Armstrong Lie, an amazing documentary that put this movie to shame.

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