Lance’s Tour de shame
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.