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PROGRAM, THE: DVD

SYNOPSIS: Irish sports journalist David Walsh (Chris O'Dowd) becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's (Ben Foster) performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances. With this conviction, he starts hunting for evidence that will expose Armstrong.

Review by Louise Keller:
Proficiently made and offering a real sense of being there, the major problem about Stephen Frears' film about drug cheat and seven times Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong is that it feels as though we have seen it all before. There are no major revelations and the facts have already been canvassed in Alex Gibney's excellent 2013 documentary The Armstrong Lie. Of course Frears is no stranger to offering intimate fly-on-the-wall glimpses of life of well-known personalities. His 2006 film The Queen starring Helen Mirren in the title role, proved to be drama at its most compelling. The Program pales in comparison.

Based on Sunday Times sportswriter David Walsh's book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, screenwriter John Hodge (Trainspotting) uses a documentary-like style, highlighting key events and how the obsessive need to win becomes a nightmare for the determined, ambitious Armstrong. In the central role, Ben Foster delivers a superb semblance of Armstrong, albeit unlikeable in every aspect of his behavior. Even at his most vulnerable - when diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer - a veneer exists.

Far more sympathetic is his teammate Floyd Landis (Jesse Plemons), who eventually becomes the whistleblower. There is an appealing vulnerability about Plemons and the dynamic between Armstrong and Landis has tension from the get-go. 'I'm Lance Armstrong and he's no-one,' Armstrong retorts. (The fact that their real-life feud and ongoing court case continues today is a point of interest)

Guillaume Canet (in fine form) plays Michele Ferrarim the fascinating 'Godfather of blood doping', the revered Italian doctor and coach who creates the doping program for Armstrong's US Postal Service team.

Frears concentrates almost exclusively on the doping aspect of the Armstrong tale; with the exception of a brief early meeting with his wife, his personal life is off limits.

The key interest factor lies in the way Armstrong is frontrunner on the bike as well as frontrunner in the most sophisticated doping in the history of sport.

The haunting, gravelly voice of Leonard Cohen singing his cynical lament 'Everybody Knows' over the closing credits captures the film's tone perfectly.

Published March 31, 2016

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

PROGRAM, THE: DVD (M)
(UK/France, 2015)

CAST: Lee Pace, Ben Foster, Jesse Plemons, Dustin Hoffman, Chris O'Dowd, Bryan Greenberg, Elaine Cassidy, Guillaume Canet

PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Tracey Seaward, Kate Solomon

DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears

SCRIPT: John Hodge (book by David Walsh)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Cohen

EDITOR: Valerio Bonelli

MUSIC: Alex Heffes

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alan MacDonald

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: StudioCanal

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 26, 2015

PRESENTATION: 16:9

SPECIAL FEATURES: .

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Studio Canal Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: March 24, 2016







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