Armstrong film gets with The Program

Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong in The Program.
Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong in The Program.

ANYONE who has kept up-to-date with the Lance Armstrong scandal would get a sense of déjà vu with The Program.

After the news reports, articles, books , Oprah interview and documentary The Armstrong Lie (2013), there is little left to reveal about how the cyclist pulled the wool over the world’s eyes and manipulated his fans.

When Armstrong (Foster) begins dominating the sport of cycling in the Tour de France after beating testicular cancer, Irish journalist David Walsh (O’Dowd) begins to suspect he is using banned substances.

With Armstrong’s fundraising empire and status as international hero and advocate growing, Walsh’s peers and editor dismiss his suspicions, shunning him for his allegations.

While we already know the facts, The Program reiterates them, though also allowing us access to Armstrong’s drive, cunning manipulations and methods of beating drug tests.

Foster turns in a good performance as the scarily driven Armstrong.

His eerily calm demeanour as he delivers each lie and dismissal of doping claims are as chilling and stomach churning as the incessant shots of needles penetrating skin.

O’Dowd as the journalist, on the other hand, is given some horrendously clichéd dialogue to grapple with.

This is undoubtedly a compelling story and one that is often hard to believe, even though we all know it happened, but is it overkill?

The answer to the question “does it warrant another telling?” is left to the viewer to decide.

Scriptwriter John Hodge, working from Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, and director Stephen Frears certainly try their best to make this version relevant.

THE ESSENTIALS

The Program (M)

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Starring: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Dustin Hoffman

Three stars

Review by Julian Wright

In cinemas now