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A Reel Life film section

Issue: Summer 2015-6

The Program (2015) movie review

Whom the Gods Would Destroy ...

Lance Armstrong was a superhero. As a cyclist he beat the odds and won the gruelling 3-week Tour de France seven times. As a man he beat testicular cancer and went on to start the Livestrong foundation. He was also plagued by allegations of doping that he rigorously denied. He lied.

This movie, The Program, suffers from a positioning problem. It is an excellent film. It is interesting, well-paced, and convincingly acted and directed. BUT it is thought to be a 'sports' movie, a 'biography/ documentary', a 'Lance Armstrong movie'. People have told me they won't see it because they' are not fans.

movie poster, The Program, Festivale film review; 220x324

Movie poster, The Program

This is not a 'fan' movie. This is a blunt story about The Program, the multiple measures that athletes take to, frankly, cheat.

Armstrong, his team, and many others in many other sports, used drugs, testosterone patches, packing red blood cells, cortisone, caffeine and more, in combination, to force their bodies to be more effective than they naturally were.

And more to the point, they conspired. They cheated. They lied. They covered-up. They smeared the reputations of others. They treatened the careers of those who spoke out. They were badly behaved people wrapped up in glory.

Through it all there were fortunes to be made, sponsors to be mendaciously reassured, and, in a word, corruption.

Director Stephen Frears brings us a story without melodrama, unvarnished by flashy soundtracks and hyper-emotional scenes. The Program is a story well-told. It is uncompromisingly honest without overt judgementalism. It puts the characters and their actions in front of us, shows us their conflicts with each other and themselves, and lets the audience come to their own conclusions.

This is a film worth seeing. I think there should have been a line or two explaining that The Program would result in extremes of aggressive behaviour, but that's the only criticism I have. I liked it. I recommend it. Go see it.

movie ad, The Program, Festivale film review; 533x300

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by Ali Kayn
Australian release 26 November 2015
For credits and official site details, see below
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Just the facts:

Title: The Program (2015)
Written by: John Hodge (screenplay), David Walsh (book)
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Running time: 103 mins

The Players: Ben Foster, Dustin Hoffman

Official website:
IMDb entry

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