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Thursday, 15 October 2015

THE PROGRAM... A NON-ENHANCING PERFORMANCE

Too soon or too late, but it's definitely an odd time to come out with this movie as the story has saturated the sport and some riders are still around, which makes it difficult from a legal and sporting point of view.
I had the best seat, front row, just off the stage where later Frears, Walsh and the impeccable host Rebecca Charlton would hold a Q&A session.
As cyclists we tend to have an inherent passion about our sport, we debate, argue, shout, cheer, and mimic our greatest heroes and ride in the same parcours. So when a director who has not a clue or is not remotely interested in cycling, is given the job of unravelling one of the most controversial stories in the history of cycling, nothing too good can come out of it.
The film is the visual representation of 'Seven Deadly Sins', a book written by journalist David Walsh and his pursuit to unmask Armstrong's doping and the various types surrounding a systemic doping that had its pinnacle at the turn of the century (by no means over now, and very present in the past as well).
Whatever people's opinion on Walsh, he was part, if not the major act in the unveiling of the doping culture. He is by no means the only reason Lance admitted to doping, but thanks to his investigations he moved enough opinions to keep the case above the surface.
Actor Chris O'Dowd plays Walsh and he's the only good note in this sketchy film.
The story unravels with snippets of episodes, the acting is marred by the strange impersonations of too many well known riders/coaches/managers etc.
The 'cycling' in the film doesn't come across as important and it shows. It seems to be told by someone who has been told about cycling but has not being involved.
Armstrong's notorious chasing down of Simeoni was a laughable affair of 30 metres, which made no sense in tactical terms. That was a crucial moment because not only Armstrong threatened him but by chasing him down himself while wearing the yellow jersey he basically killed any ambitions the Italian rider might have had. That didn't come across.
But Frears admitted during the Q&A after the screening that he was only interested in the criminal side of the story. He seemed confused and unimpressed by an audience that was more focused on the nuances of the sport. But those nuances are important. At the heart of all the doping there was yes greed, fraud, threats, bullying but also a chase for glory, fame, sporting immortality.
Ben Foster, Lance in the movie, had a passable performance but the general feel was one of a 'B' movie, something that would come up in the afternoon on Channel 5. Hurried, fragmentary, at times ridiculous.
And let's forget the title sequence... as a designer I cringed. Bad type, bad editing.
It confirmed was I thought the film would be like and I only went because I hoped the Q&A would bring light to the making of the movie. But with a reluctant director, it wasn't going to happen.
A friend suggested they should've made a film about a story like Armstrong's but with fictional characters. That would've freed the legal headaches and the silly make ups. Or stick with a well edited documentary (but that's been done).
However, I was in good company and a night out is a night out.

4/10

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