Lance’s Tour de shame

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES -

THE PRO­GRAM (M)

Di­rec­tor: Stephen Frears (Philom­ena) Star­ring: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Jesse Ple­mons, Dustin Hoff­man, Lee Pace Ver­dict: Climb ev­ery moun­tain, fraud ev­ery scene.

IN The Pro­gram, we are treated to an en­try-level primer on the en­dur­ing ig­nominy of dis­graced cy­cling psy­chopath Lance Arm­strong.

There has al­ready been sev­eral su­perb doc­u­men­taries about how the Texan road-racer took us all for a ride while “win­ning” seven straight Tour de Frances.

Now with The Pro­gram, it is the turn of a tra­di­tional fea­ture film to re-en­act the sorry de­ba­cle for the pub­lic record.

If the docos care­fully pointed fin­gers at their sin­is­ter sub­ject, The Pro­gram is all about rais­ing one digit in the same gen­eral di­rec­tion.

What it lacks in fine de­tail, it mostly makes up for with a sick­en­ing phys­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Arm­strong (played solidly un­der try­ing con­di­tions by Ben Foster) at the height of his war on hon­esty.

One chilling scene in par­tic­u­lar says it all. En route be­tween stages on the Tour de France, Arm­strong’s team bus pulls into a sid­ing along a moun­tain pass.

Cur­tains are drawn. Doors and win­dows are locked. Fridges are opened. Then Arm­strong and his fel­low riders pump them­selves full of clean blood that will guar­an­tee they beat any pre-race test­ing await­ing them later in the day.

While scenes like this un­der­line what we al­ready know of Arm­strong and his ab­so­lute ex­per­tise in tak­ing the new­est and fastest per­for­manceen­hanc­ing shortcuts when­ever pos­si­ble, it still comes as a dis­tinct shock to see them on-screen.

So even if The Pro­gram is trad­ing in sec­ond-hand goods in some ways, its most last­ing value may be when it is shown to young, am­bi­tious sports­peo­ple con­sid­er­ing a pro sports ca­reer.

Un­derneath each of Arm­strong’s tainted yel­low jer­seys beat the black heart of a fiendish sports su­pervil­lain, a craven cheat who went to un­con­scionable lengths (many in­volv­ing his sta­tus as a can­cer sur­vivor and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing char­ity) to re­pel any ac­cu­sa­tions about his “achieve­ments”.

It took a com­plex ma­trix of char­ac­ter flaws to keep a mas­sive lie such a ma­jor se­cret for so long.

If The Pro­gram does come up markedly short in any one depart­ment, it is only that it fails to ad­e­quately map the mine­field in­side the mind of this per­son­al­ity.

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