Lance Armstrong, while now disgraced and stripped of his record seven Tour de France wins, was once untouchable, a beacon of inspiration for people the world over. While the world wanted to believe in the story he told, journalist David Walsh, whose book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong serves as the basis for the film, always had questions and spent 13 years trying to make people see the truth – that Lance was using performance-enhancing drugs.
Like any film based on real events that you have lived through and watched unfold on the news, The Program is a trip down memory lane, but this one gives you a fresh perspective on the man that made headlines the world over and is a thoroughly thrilling watch.
We're first introduced to Armstrong as a man desperate to win, and you nearly feel sorry for him when he learns that his body just won't ever let that happen. When he turns to cheating and the darker sides of his personality start to shine through, all affection goes out the window.
We've seen the film about the journalist working hard to get to the bottom of a major story a hundred times over, but The Program is different in that the story unfolds as we follow Armstrong through his cancer battle, his strict doping regimen, up to the moment he is stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, with Walsh almost a footnote on the story. At no point does it feel like a vanity thing for Walsh, he's never really painted as the one man that took down the giant, more the lone journalist actually being a journalist and asking the questions that people don't want to know the answers to.
Foster's portrayal of Armstrong is simply excellent. The actor admitted recently to following Armstrong's drug program, under medical supervision of course, to properly understand his character and to get into the part, and I don't know whether or not this helped but the end result is irrefutable – Foster becomes Armstrong. He nails his intensity and his arrogance, but manages to incorporate a sense of heart and regret that makes you realise that he is a prisoner in his own web of lies, a man so desperate to win that he has forsaken his whole being.
While Foster steals the show, Plemons gives the performance of his career as Armstrong's teammate Floyd Landis. He plays the cyclist with such conviction, heart and relatability that you can't help but feel for him as he battles with his moral compass.
While Armstrong's story would've been truly inspirational had it been true – and would probably have been turned into a film for those reasons – the truth for once is far more compelling and The Program is must-see viewing.