Film & TV

Blu-ray Review: The Program

The story of champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, from his early career & fight with cancer, to his fall from grace in one of sport’s greatest doping scandals.

“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say: Enough is enough.” – some of Lance Armstrong’s more famous words which sum up the climax of the film The Program.

The film traces Armstrong’s early career, his fight with cancer and his famous involvement with the Tour De France. We watch while Armstrong develops from a cyclist who wants to improve his performance in order to reach his potential, to a man driven to be the best cyclist in the world, no matter what.

Of course Lance Armstrong did not pioneer doping to enhance performance, but this film demonstrates how he perfected the art and indoctrinated others to join him.

An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Armstrong’s performances during the Tour de France victories are fuelled by banned substances (which, when taken together, form what they called ‘The Program’). With this conviction, he starts hunting for evidence that will expose Armstrong.

At times it is hard to separate fact from fiction in this biography. Of course we all know about Lance Armstrong’s confession to doping, but this is the first time I have seen the supposed whole story.

Ben Foster dominates the film (as he should). He looks remarkably similar to Armstrong and captures his familiar arms-up victory salute at the end of races. I was impressed by the intensity of his acting and can’t help but wonder why we don’t see more of him.

Chris O’Dowd is excellent as David Walsh, the journalist caught in the dilemma of continuing a friendship with Armstrong or exposing a cheat.

Dr Michele Ferrari (who supplied the illegal substances), played by Guillaume Canet, unfortunately seemed one dimensional and resembled an Italian pimp of yesteryear.

Jesse Plemons as Floyd Landis is the cyclist in the team who finally seals Armstrong’s doom by confessing his own use of illegal substances and detailing Armstrong’s.

The direction by Stephen Frears ensures that film never drags. It uses short scenes and concentrates on the acting talents of his cast rather than special effects

At the time he admitted his culpability, it seemed as if Lance Armstrong fell from grace. But, as The Program clearly demonstrates, there was never any grace from which to fall.

Reviewed by Barry Hill
Twitter: @kinesguy

Rating out of 10:  7

The Program is out now on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital.

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