The Program (15) | Home Ents Review
Dir. Stephen Frears, UK/France, 2015, 101 mins
Cast: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Guillaume Canet, Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace, Denis Menochet, Dustin Hoffman
The Program, based upon David Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins, is a combination of Walsh’s journalistic doubt and reporting upon the rise of Armstrong during his first years of professional racing interlocked with Ben Foster’s portrayal of Lance whom uses his team mates and his loved ones to create a smokescreen that keeps him at the top at all costs.
Chris O’Dowd plays Walsh and the onscreen chemistry between the two men is fantastic and Walsh is often the hero trying to defeat the villain that is Armstrong. Through fast paced editing, strong acting and an interesting look into the mind-set of a cheater, The Program is a good, solid film that tries to pry into why a man would go so far.
Foster does bring a level of intensity that certainly follows source material closely. The star of the show though is Jesse Plemons’ performance of Floyd Landis, the whistle-blower. It’s a cracking range he show, he has a presence and intrigue that derails Foster’s performance at times because of how interesting he makes it.
If you haven’t already seen the Alex Gibney documentary The Armstrong Lie then I recommend you do to really see the aftermath of the scandal, following Armstrong after he had revealed all on Oprah. Clearly he’s a man who wants to win and always wanted to be on top, so this is a harrowing insight into the hysteria surrounding him.
Foster’s version of the man tries to show some of his nicer elements, connecting to his charity foundation and his upbringing, but deep down you won’t side with him nor root for his victory; in fact it’s a strong outlet to hate the man even more for what he did to the sport and the use of a doctor to justify his use of drugs and his techniques of ensuring he passed every test and was never found guilty.
The cycling sequences in the film are good, with spirited camera angles and a style that sticks throughout; but ultimately it’s not on the same level as the Steve Jobs film. At the same time what can you expect from a story that’s been split so wide open that nothing is a secret nor a new fact.
Solid directing, good performances and a narrative that skips at a steady pace, The Program is decent viewing for someone interested in the subject; but it isn’t treading new ground.
Extras include documentaries and interviews with the cast and how Foster became Armstrong through his training and his looks.
Review by Simon Childs
The Program is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.