The Program review: 'Totally absorbing, all 102 fast paced minutes'

The Program, film starring Ben Foster

"Ben Foster is brilliant. He has created a monster. True to the man who broke Ullrich and Pantani. Biopic about Lance Armstrong is fast paced and absorbing."

 

Words: Grant Young

 

Almost two years ago we sat down with a costume designer for an untitled cycling film project. They were asking for help to re-create nearly fifty bikes from the nineties for a biopic. We helped and it was an exciting project. Only at the end of a frantic two weeks did we discover the bicycles would be used as props for a film that would centre on cycling's ultimate baddie, Lance Armstrong. 

Then we heard nothing. I patiently waited for the movie's release, devouring any information that was released in the press about it. I was keen to see how the bicycles we had made would feature. Even more so, I was curious about how the writers and director had perceived cycling and the story of Lance. 

Firstly, Ben Foster is brilliant. He has created a monster. Lance was the man who broke Ullrich with 'a look' and teased Marco Pantani into quitting the Tour. Fosters' sneering comments, his clenched jaw and the way he pulls his mouth tight before passively delivering demands to team mates. It is almost as if you are watching an actual Lance documentary from '99, except all the usual sponsor puff, shine and glean has taken out. 

Lance is a man that has captured the headlines for two decades. The plot of this film is one that most know like the backs of our hand, so there is no need to labour over the synopsis, other than to say we begin with Lance as a nobody. He realises to win he must dope like everyone else and do it better than the rest. Times journalist, David Walsh smells a rat and gets onto his case, meanwhile former team mate Floyd Landis decides to let the cat out of the bag after getting shunned by Armstrong. Jesse Plemons playing Mennoite Floyd Landis supports Foster excellently, unravelling the lies with a whiff of spite and jealousy. While, Guillaume Canet bears an uncanny similarity to Michele Ferrari. We all know how the film will end and yet it remains is totally absorbing throughout, all 102 fast-paced-minutes of it. Packed with enough meaty bits that leave you wincing when Foster appears on screen.

Keen cycling fans will be able to highlight the slight irregularities with certain race scenes, the odd bit of miss placed apparel, "the actor playing Contador doesn't have thin enough arms." If you want to watch it to nick pick then you've missed the point. Enjoy it for being a movie. Actor Foster and director, Frears telling the tale of an unbelievable story of how one man cheated, lied and bullied his way into seven yellow jerseys.

The Program is in cinemas nationwide now.

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