Starring: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Dustin Hoffman
Director: Stephen Frears
Running Time: 103 mins
The Program is a British film about the true story of cyclist Lance Armstrong, who, despite miraculously recovering from cancer and winning the Tour de France an incredible seven times, had his career disgraced by allegations of his participation a hugely sophisticated doping program.
This is a pretty interesting biopic, with strong performances across the board and a pretty engaging story. However, it’s nothing particularly outstanding, due to its evident holding back against really going after Armstrong. Yes, this is still a pretty scathing story, but it still all feels far too plain and simple, and there’s never any real gusto in the writing to make you passionately dislike Armstrong, which the movie is trying to do.
But before we get into that, let’s look at the most impressive part of this film, which are the performances. Ben Foster, as Lance Armstrong, is brilliant, and often terrifying and hateful to the extent that you really want the movie to show you, and without him doing such a good job in the role, this film would have been at a loss, given his incredible acting.
In the side role as the journalist determined to take Armstrong down, Chris O’Dowd is also pretty good. It’s not a world-beating performance that makes you want to whole-heartedly will the man onto revealing Armstrong’s lies, but he is a likeable character, and one of the only ones that can firmly support in the whole film.
The way that this film tells the history of Armstrong’s deception is also very interesting. Although it’s all in recent memory for most of us, there’s still a lot of information here that you didn’t know about, particularly revolving around the inner workings of Armstrong’s United States Postal Service team and how he was the ring leader in the world of doping in cycling.
However, that’s about it. This film is definitely interesting and well-acted, but it’s not an outstanding, memorable biopic. It feels more like reading a very interesting textbook cover-to-cover, full of fascinating information, but with no real high drama or emotion to fully show the significance of what’s going on, and to really pull you into the story rather than just observing it, and that’s why The Program gets a 7.5 from me.