The Program

2015

Action / Biography / Drama / Sport

22
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 68%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 88%
IMDb Rating 6.5 10 12707

Synopsis


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January 22, 2016 at 12:26 AM

Director

Cast

Jesse Plemons as Floyd Landis
Lee Pace as Bill Stapleton
Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong
Dustin Hoffman as Bob Hamman
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
752.69 MB
1280*534
English
R
24 fps
1hr 39 min
P/S 6 / 8
1.56 GB
1920*800
English
R
24 fps
1hr 39 min
P/S 2 / 12

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bob-the-movie-man 8 / 10

Riding for a fall

I can see this film dividing opinion, since bike fanatics (of which the UK has a high number) will seek to pick holes in the reality of the story and staging in the same way that a locomotive fan will point out that the 4472, "Flying Scotsman" shouldn't have been in a film set in 1926! I'm not a keen cyclist, (unless you count pottering around the New Forest occasionally as 'cycling'), so I approached Stephen Frears' new biopic on disgraced superstar Lance Armstrong with some reservations. But I really enjoyed it.

Armstrong is portrayed as a massively competitive individual that won't lose at cycling or table football, and won't die (from cancer) either. The film deftly portrays how this drive for success dragged him, like quicksand, into the world of illicit doping. In fact, for much of the film, given that he mixes all of this up with fervent support for cancer charities, I ended up feeling quite sorry for the guy: someone who knows he is cheating and fooling the world but sees it as a viable means to an end. However as his lying, both about the doping and his personal past achievements, becomes more and more cringe-worthy, he becomes a pathetic figure: this is not a great PR exercise for Armstrong.

Above all, the film is a warning shot against having too much belief in overly self-confident people. There are some people who can claim wrong is right and be believed because they state the case with such vehemence and, as portrayed, Armstrong was certainly one of those. In a year of (alleged) similar sporting performances at FIFA, it's a lesson worth learning.

Armstrong is brought brilliantly to life by lookalike Ben Foster, an actor who I must admit to date has rather passed me by. This performance to me deserves a shot at an Oscar nomination. There are parts of the film where he goes all Eddie "Hawking" Redmayne, but aside from these more physical moments, check out the scene where he comes third: just jaw-droppingly effective acting, mixing incredulity and rage all on the same face at the same time. Very impressed.

Foster is backed up by a strong supporting cast: Chris O'Dowd ("Bridesmaids", "Calvary") plays the Irish journalist David Walsh, doggedly pursuing the doping story. It's a believable performance. Jesse Plemons is also great in the complex role of Floyd Landis, a fellow rider on the team who has to struggle with not only lying to the public but (more painfully) to his Pennsylvanian Amish community. Denis Ménochet ("Inglorious Basterds") is also striking as Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong's coach. While getting strong billing, Dustin Hoffman is great, as always, but has little more than a cameo in the film over a couple of scenes. (And talking of random cameos (though I can't see him credited) did I spot Bond producer Michael G Wilson as Armstrong's doctor?).

The sweeping camera shots of cinematographer Danny Cohen ("Les Miserables", "The King's Speech") brings the cycling scenes to life, and are nicely melded with actual footage of the races. (Though some of the Paris green screen award-giving work is rather less convincing).

Director Stephen Frears ("The Queen", "Philomena") directs, and wisely chooses to keep the film to a compact and entertaining 103 minutes.

This has been a good year for biopics, and following the excellent "Love and Mercy" about Brian Wilson, "The Program" makes it onto my list as one of the top 10 of the year so far. Recommended.

(A graphical version of this review is also available at bob-the-movie- man.com).

Reviewed by gricey_sandgrounder 7 / 10

A solid sports drama flick.............but it's better to watch the documentaries

We pretty much know the story of the biggest con in sports history.

A 7-time Tour De France winner after recovering from quite severe level of testicular cancer, to be then stripped of everything he had ever achieved in the sport of cycling due to the use of performance- enhancing drugs.

With all that being said, what could this movie do to give us something different to be excited about?

We have director Stephen Frears (Philomena, Dirty Pretty Things, The Queen) exploring the biggest rise and fall probably by anyone in the history of the world.

I'm afraid that despite the solid pace to it, good performances and pleasing visuals, this only really skimmed the surface of the entire story.

Ben Foster plays Armstrong and it is quite un-nerving how much his likeness is uncanny to the man himself. He was a strong lead and definitely made this film watchable and interesting. Chris O'Dowd as hounding sports journalist David Walsh was solid. But I felt he was massively under-used. I think the makers of the film could have better by going down the route 'Rush' did by having two big characters facing-off throughout the feature. All the performances were fine and noticeable in terms of down- grading the film. The only stand-out worth mentioning was Jesse Plemon's portrayal of Armstrong's main team- mate Floyd Landis. He had moments that got me engaged and made it interesting viewing. One casting choice that I was confused about, was the addition of Dustin Hoffman as we see very little of him. Someone that big in the film industry should not be part of a film if he is going to be in there for very short amounts.

The race scenes look well made. Cinematography is a big high point in the film, especially in the opening scene. And finally, the soundtrack fits in the well with the story despite not being quite a captivating one for re-listening.

However, I cannot ignore the safe route this film went. It always went over the important issues quite casually and quickly went on the next one. It seems Frears wanted to throw too much into film and forgot to focus on keeping one angle to the story. I really felt we should have seen more of the journalist pursuing the star type of film which would have made it a great and enjoyable watch.

Connecting to the film was hard as well. It reminded me of The Wolf Of Wall Street as we are trying to connect with a guy we know has bone really bad things. But unlike the Martin Scorsese flick, the style of film-making is nothing remarkable, just passable.

It is still a well-acted drama flick. For those people that don't know a lot about the story, they will get the most enjoyment out of it. But if you want to a good film about Lance Armstrong and how he became the man he is today, watch the two film documentaries 'The Armstrong Lie' and 'Stop At Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story'. They both go into much more detail on how big of an idiot Armstrong is.

Reviewed by Viswanath Dhanisetty 4 / 10

to be seen on Lifetime

Quickie Review:

Obsessed with winning the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster) uses performance enhancing substances to gain the edge. Meanwhile, sports journalist David Walsh (Chris O'Dowd) convinced of the doping conspiracy starts to gather evidence to expose Armstrong. The Program, is an underwhelming retelling of the one of the biggest drug scandals in sports history. Admittedly the actor's performances are good, and the movie overall is shot well. However, the script and the story telling are to the quality of what you might expect from an average TV documentary re-enactment.

Full Review:

Considering the high profile nature of the scandal, I was surprised that The Program wasn't marketed more. I never saw the trailers in the cinemas and when I brought up that I was going to watch this movie in the weekend I was immediately asked by everyone "What's that?" After watching the film it's clear to me that even the studio lacked confidence in the final product.

Few as they may be, there are certainly some redeeming things about The Program. The lead actor Ben Foster gave a solid performance, at a certain point I didn't see him anymore and only saw Lance. Which probably is the biggest compliment I'll give to this movie. I also enjoyed seeing the whole doping operation, it was meticulous and systematic. I really got the sense of the lengths that Lance and his team went to achieve their goals. Although it is definitely disgraceful, I must admit I was rather impressed by how for so long they got away with it all. So I commend the filmmakers for pulling off that aspect of the story. As for the rest of the story, there's more to be desired.

You couldn't ask for better true story material for a sports drama. There was huge potential here, but all of it is lost because of the paint by the numbers approach to the film. Rather than concentrating on a singular character and see them transform over the course of the movie, The Program opts to also give significant spotlight to David Walsh and Floyd Landis (Jesse Plemons). This causes the movie to lose focus with each change. The structure of movie made it blatantly obvious that the director and the editor prioritised showing a checklist of major events in Lance's life rather than telling a coherent story. An example of this false priorities was the introduction of Lance's wife. The whole segment of them meeting lasts for about 45 seconds, we get a quick look at a wedding, and that's it, we never see her again for the rest of the movie. That small segment was just there to show Lance got married at one point. It felt completely unnecessary, instead I would love to have seen how this whole operation affected his relationships and friendships.

The Program, is a movie that no-one knows about and unfortunately will be a forgettable experience for the ones who do watch it. I think if I had caught this as a re-enacted documentary on TV, I'd be really impressed. However when it comes to biographically movies in cinemas it just doesn't hold up to the standard set by recent movies such as The Social Network or Selma for example.

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