The Program doesn’t provide any new insight about Lance Armstrong and a doping case that’s as epic as his mythic champion tale, but it offers a well-acted and nicely paced story about the addiction to greatness.
Following a gruelling battle with cancer, Lance returned to his cycling career in 1999 more determined than ever and with his sights set firmly on winning the Tour de France. With the help of the infamous Italian physician Michele Ferrari and team director Johan Bruyneel, he developed the most sophisticated doping program in the history of the sport.
The Program is based on the book Seven Deadly Sins by David Walsh and brings Lance Armstrong’s doping allegations onscreen.
The movie has a snappy plot thanks to a sharp script. The development of Armstrong’s doping program and his rise as a mythical cycling athlete provides an engaging visualization of his story. The adaptation also features a believable sports reel that highlights his race to victory and back to back wins.
The Program manages to sustain an unsettling air of deception throughout that you can’t help but wait on how it will all fall apart.
At the center of all this is a solid performance by Ben Foster. It’s rare for a real life subject to be more good looking than the actor who portrays him, but Foster compensates this through an uncanny impersonation. Jesse Plemons also turns in a commendable performance as a Mennonite struggling to juggle his faith and ambition. The rest of the cast also did well even Guillaume Canet with a distracting wig.
While the movie is able to illustrate one of the most efficient doping programs in the history of sport, the facts presented here are nothing new. The Program is a typical movie about a hero’s fall from grace. The movie does have potential ideas but instead of delving deeper into one, it only scratches the surface of the many issues in Armstrong’s doping case.
It doesn’t show any insight about his inner struggles or moral dilemma before the historic Oprah interview. It showed how he was able to deceive the whole world, but the movie didn’t show the fallout after his confession.
It reveals the unethical practice of doping in sports and the suppression of investigative journalism due to the cult of personality, but the movie doesn’t dig deeper into any of these relevant issues.
In the end, we don’t know anything more about Lance Armstrong than what we’ve been already told. This movie is not really about who is but who he isn’t. Anyone who can read the book and research online will find the answers to that question.
For those who prefer a visual account of his doping history, The Program is sufficient enough to be provide the important details. While it’s not as emotionally gritty and memorable as it aims to be, it still manages to be an engaging movie about the addiction to greatness. Armstrong did everything he can to get the most out of the program and protected it all costs, while his fans are more than willing to drink his kool aid rather than to question its secret ingredient.
Unfortunately for those who want to know more about the man behind the program, Lance Armstrong remains elusive.
My Rating: 6/10