'The Program' - Movie Review

'The Program'
U/A; Sports-drama-biopic
Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Guillaume Canet, Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace, Denis Menochet, Dustin Hoffman, Elaine Cassidy, Edward Hogg

This film seems propitious given that it comes at a time when the sporting world is in the grip of a possible doping allegation on Maria Sharapova, the tennis princess who everyone thought ‘could do no wrong’. Whatever the technicalities of that allegation may be, this film digs deep to unravel the mysteries of cheating employed by Lance Armstrong and his team enroute to winning pole position seven times at the most prestigious cycling event in the world - The Tour De France.

It’s a revealing study of the ‘doping’ habit practiced by experienced world beating athletes in their efforts to stay on top of the game by hook or by crook. While the revelations that unfold here are not as shocking as it was when seen in the far more revealing 2013 documentary ‘The Armstrong Lie’ by Alex Gibney, the cinematic treatment (though styled as a docu-drama) does have its strongly ingratiating moments.

Watch the trailer of 'The Program'

The entire gamut of fame and infamy is principally drawn from Walsh’s book “Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong”. John Hodge’s script hugs itself to the straight and narrow - fixated with what was revealed through the investigations than with what was not. Of course there’s quite enough meat to crucify the once sporting great and it’s done with substantive proof and strong factual preponderance. The resultant is engaging if not exactly riveting. And Ben Foster’s performance, while not completely immersive, manages to convey most of Armstrong’s characteristic traits with sanguinity and reserved aplomb. The film ignores Armstrong’s ‘personal’ life twists even as it glorifies his fight with cancer and his efforts to provide financial and moral succor to those combating the disease. Doping though is not that strong a villain here!

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