Alex Gibney originally set out to film a comeback story about Lance Armstrong's return to the Tour de France in 2009. He filmed Mr. Armstrong in training & during the race & had nearly completed the film when the doping scandal broke. The film was put on hold. Then, earlier this year, Mr. Armstrong's confessional interview with Oprah gave Mr. Gibney the opportunity to refashion his movie as the story of Lance Armstrong's rise & fall. The Armstrong Lie shows Mr. Armstrong visiting cancer wards filled with young children & taking a random drug test administered by officials who turn up at his home, but it also features a post-Oprah interview & interviews with less-than-admiring journalists & colleagues. We get glimpses of Michele Ferrari, the cagey Italian physician who oversaw athletes' doping regiments. The focus is on the brazen lies & evasions all around, though there's no new information here.
I liked the thrilling footage of the Tour de France race, some of it shot by cameras mounted on bicycles. Drunken spectators who run onto the racecourse are one of the race's hazards. The idea of doping is put into context by an amusing sequence showing competitors in the early days of the Tour de France drinking alcohol to keep themselves going. Mr. Gibney narrates the film, & his ambivalent attitude toward Mr. Armstrong is partly its subject, but since we now know that everyone was doping, it is not clear why censure should fall on Mr. Armstrong in particular. The Armstrong Lie opens in the Bay Area on November 15th.
§ The Armstrong Lie (2013)
Alex Gibney, writer & director
USA, 123 min.