(M) Directed by Stephen Frears
Starring Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Jesse Plemons

by Ben McEachen

There already have been a few documentaries about Lance Armstrong's exceptional disintegration but High Fidelity director Stephen Frears has delivered the first feature. Based on a book by sport journalist David Walsh (who chased Armstrong for years about drug allegations), The Program spans the professional career of the disgraced Tour De France “legend”.

While all that is presented might be true or close to it, Frears' packaging of a competitive life surges with an offputting sense of venom. Perhaps Armstrong was the win-at-any-cost jerk he is unrelentingly depicted as and Ben Foster dissolves convincingly into the obsessed cyclist. But Armstrong seems deliberately reduced to a narcissistic caricature, to deny him any sympathy or humanity.

The Program capably plays with sound and vision to suggest it is a multi-faceted look at a proven cheat. The unnecessary vibe of witch-hunt becomes so pervasive, though, it can be hard to go the distance.

This review was originally published in Rolling Stone magazine's December 2015 edition. Click here for more Rolling Stone reviews.

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