Being a child of the 90’s, I’m too young to remember most of the events that took place in this film. Something I do remember however is the huge media storm around Lance Armstrong’s confession, and how much of a big deal it was at the time. I can remember talking to my father about cycling in general, and him telling me how it was impossible to be a fan of a sport where everybody was cheating. I had no idea how true that was until I watched this film.
The Program is a biopic about Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster), as he’s diagnosed with testicular cancer, overcomes it and goes on to become a seven time Tour de France winner. The way he and his team do this is by taking various performance enhancing drugs. The other side of the story follows journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) as he tries to uncover the truth behind the doping scandal.
So this is clearly a performance piece, and that is an area in which The Program excels. Ben Foster is brilliant as Armstrong, as he manages to portray him as both an arrogant cheater, who will do anything to succeed, and a man in pain who wants to help people. Even near the end of the story, when Armstrong was at his most despicable, Foster manages to make you feel sorry for him. The other side is Chris O’Dowd, who doesn’t have as much to work with, but still does a lot with his role.
I would also like to mention director Stephen Frears. There’s no particular distinguishing style on display here, but the story plays out in an interesting and alternative way, with events not always playing out in chronological order, and every small thing you see at the start of the film coming back to be meaningful later.
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