The Program

The Program

The Lance Armstrong story is one of the more compelling in recent sporting history, and while Stephen Frears biopic largely sticks to the surface facts, that’s more than enough to paint a startling picture of ego run amok. Starting out with Armstrong (excellently played by a near-unrecognisable Ben Foster) realising that bike racing is won by people with attributes he doesn’t have.
Beyond a monstrous desire to win, he goes from a likable human character through a brush with cancer and the adoption of a drug regime and comes out the other side little more than a hollow shell filled with a need to always win every encounter he has with another human being. Digging up the story no-one wants told is Irish journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd), whose likable nature makes the constant set-backs he faces as his employers and fellow writers all side with Armstrong all the more galling.
This doesn’t provide much insight into Armstrong – it seems like there’s nothing to be learnt past “he’d do anything to win” – but as an examination of how a liar and cheat could basically stare down the entire cycling world through sheer force of will, this is the much-needed flip-side to countless “one man against the system” feel-good triumphs.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris