It almost seems crazy now to think that there was a time when not only did very, very few people suspect that maybe something wasn’t quite right about cancer survivor-turned-seven time Tour de France cheat Lance Armstrong, but that to do so was considered by many to be close to sacrilege. It seems similarly absurd that journalist David Walsh (among others, presumably) had to struggle to prove that a man who couldn’t win one of the world’s most gruelling athletic pursuits before he was nearly destroyed by malignancy could suddenly develop superhuman abilities and chalk it up to simple willpower.
But struggle he did, and it's the journalist’s quest (Walsh is played by Chris O’Dowd) that provides a pacey narrative drive for THE PROGRAM; as possibly the most famous sporting scandal in history, the outcome won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but a few of the outrageous details might.
It’s the other element of the story, however, the enigma of Armstrong himself – here played with an uncanny likeness by the never less than excellent Ben Foster – that proves a tougher nut for director Stephen Frears & company to crack. John Hodge’s script touches on but never quite digs deep enough into Armstrong’s mind and motivations (possibly with good, legally protective reasons) to really satisfy us on a dramatic level, despite Foster’s pitch perfect embodiment of the disgraced superstar (watch Alex Gibney's documentary THE ARMSTRONG LIE to see just how accurate Foster gets it), and top notch work from a supporting cast including Guillaume Canet, Denis Menochet, Jesse Plemmons, Edward Hogg, Laura Donnelly, Lee Pace and Dustin Hoffman.
THE PROGRAM is released October 16 in the UK, November 26 in Australia and New Zealand.