By Christian DiMartino
Stephen Frears’ The Program is a curious little film: it has all the elements needed for a successful biopic, and yet it still falls a little short.
Still though, this is some interesting stuff.
Frears, the great filmmaker behind The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons, and Dirty Pretty Things, knows how to make a great movie, and hell, even a great biopic. Hence why I assumed The Program, which exploits Lance Armstrong’s steroid use, would be a slam dunk. Like the man himself, it succeeds in crossing the finishing line, but yet it has has its flaws.
I know I for one was in awe when I heard the truth about Armstrong, considering the dude was a big deal. What with his testicular cancer, and his triumph at the Tour De France. He was a boss… or so we thought.
The Program follows Armstrong (played by the severely underrated Ben Foster, who strangely morphs into Armstrong), as he does triumph past his testicular cancer. That was no lie. The lie, however, occurred in the fact that Armstrong, throughout his many races, was on roids. Not only was he on roids, but his whole team was on roids, and they did it… in secret. Chris O’Dowd plays David Walsh, an Irish journalist who is pretty much onto Armstrong from the beginning, and sets out to discover the truth.
The performances are just as one would hope. Foster, severely underrated (as I mentioned above), owns this role. He does his best to dig into Armstrong’s skin, and he nails it. Well, for what we get, he nails it. I also enjoyed the supporting work from O’Dowd, Jesse Plemmons, and Dustin Hoffman.
This is certainly some interesting stuff, and not to mention,the film is well made. There’s some moments that truly shine as well. But you recall above when I said that Foster does “his best” to dig into Armstrong’s skin? Yes, well I mention this not because it’s his fault, but rather, in terms of storytelling, it’s all fairly straightforward. All of the pieces of the puzzle are on the table, and yet Frears just kind of puts them together for us.
It doesn’t dive deep enough, to say the least. What we see is what we get. Luckily though, what we get is still a pretty good film. But yet considering the story we have at hand, it should be just a bit better.
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