The Program France, UK 2015 – 104min.
In the early 90s, Lance Armstrong started off his career as a cyclist with a handful of wins that didn’t indicate the level he would later achieve. After a bout with cancer, he came back with a vengeance, winning the Tour de France seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005. But behind the legend of this superman, who became an icon thanks to his cancer charity, hid one of the most spectacular frauds in the sports world.
The golden age of Stephen Frears is far behind him. Movies like My Beautiful Laundrette and Dangerous Liaisons have made way for easier fare like Tamara Drewe and Philomena. Almost ten years after the phenomenal success of The Queen, which led to the Oscars, he returns to the simplistic biopic genre with The Program. The first surprise: Frears’ does not to stick to the usual dynamic editing style, instead using ellipses for an intensely compact story about Armstrong’s career. There are little or no intimate looks at his life or loves, ostentatious writing or big, explosive scenes to enhance the performance of his lead Ben Foster. Instead, The Program is a cold, mechanical and implacable reconstitution of a myth built around lies and fueled by pride. The nuance is subtle, but within the overexposed biopic genre, it makes The Program much more interesting than expected.