The Armstrong Lie (2013)
Lance Armstrong retired after winning his 7th Tour de France, the world’s most grueling sporting event. Riding the tour is a test of both the physical and the mental side of man’s ability to overcome pain to complete a sporting event. Armstrong seemed to be a man that could not be broken and was determined to leave everyone behind, choking on his dust. While there had always been allegations following Armstrong around that he used Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s), he had never tested positive and vigorously denied ever using them.
In 2009, Armstrong decided to mount a comeback, to prove he was the best and that he was clean. Filmmaker Alex Gibney was given unprecedented access to film this comeback that ultimately ended with Armstrong not winning his 8th Tour but coming in third.
In this fascinating documentary about the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong, we see that the comeback was Armstrong’s biggest mistake. By coming back, he reopened many doors that had been left closed, and many of his former teammates, who had been silent up to then, decided to take down Armstrong. What Gibney does a great job establishing is the background of Armstrong. We see how he was raised by a single mom, his love of endurance sports such as the triathlons and his first introduction to riding the one of the world’s most popular sporting events.
What makes this film unique is that for the first time, Armstrong is answering questions that he has always denied or has spun around to his own defense. He is confronted by Gibney, who knows Armstrong well and unlike Oprah, able to get him to answer the tough questions. Is as if Gibney has finally broken down the wall that Armstrong had carefully put up between himself and the press.
This film is intriguing because it was meant to be just about Armstrong’s comeback bid, but as the firestorm grew every day around his possible use of PED’s, Gibney decided to make a totally different film. Gibney interviews a host of riders, a great many that were on Armstrong’s winning Tour de France teams, making a case against Armstrong, voice by voice. The film goes beyond that comeback Tour and delves deeply into Armstrong’s races, making us feel as if we were there along for the ride. The filmmaker does a great job of giving us a background to the sport and why the Tour de France is so important to Europeans. We are there when Armstrong is training, as well as the candid moments during the 2009 race itself, showing Armstrong with his family, all the while medical teams continually test his blood for PED’s.
Gibney paints a picture of a man so driven that he wouldn’t think twice to try to destroy anyone that tried to bring him down. A man that overcame cancer and made an incredible amount of money in a sport that few Americans ever participate in, much less watch. He was a man sure of himself that he says in the film “I certainly thought I would never get caught.” Ultimately, it was Armstrong himself that brought down his empire, and Gibney brings this to the screen for us to see. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
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“The Armstrong Lie” is currently playing at UA Tara Cinemas 4