Director: Alex Gibney
Starring: Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Betsy Andreu, Michele Ferrari
Release Date: January 31st
The controversial career of cyclist Lance Armstrong, from beating cancer to his much-maligned doping scandal, makes a fine setup for a big-screen documentary of purpose and form.
Seasoned documentary-maker Alex Gibney, a man who has covered topics ranging from Enron to Hunter S. Thompson, provides a safe pair of hands to create an interesting documentary for those not entirely knowledgeable in the saga surrounding Lance Armstrong.
Structurally, the story surrounding The Armstrong Lie is an interesting one. It immediately opens to the modern day explosion surrounding Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. From there the audience looks on as the famous Oprah interview unfolds, before being taken back to Armstrong’s humble beginnings.
Later in the film, the events take a turn during Armstrong’s comeback during the 2009 Tour de France. It partially turns into the original documentary Gibney made before details of Armstrong’s cheating became common knowledge. This realisation becomes the film’s most interesting section that provides a great profile of Armstrong’s character once that doubt is allowed to sink in.
The documentary itself is a solid, well-crafted piece of film in regard to cinematography, with plenty of shots of summertime French countryside alongside the drier, bolder interview sections. There are wide arrays of interviewees from both sides of the Armstrong case.
Despite a slight American slant, the film still fits in voices of varying opinions from around the world of cycling. There are a number of interesting anecdotes about the degree of Armstrong’s team doping techniques, as well as an intriguing profile on former team doctor Michele Ferrari.
The difference between the scenes of the original comeback documentary and the newer, revised documentary helps this film stand out from run of the mill works. Interviews of Armstrong are used from both 2009 and 2013 to great effect, allowing a full understanding of the character under scrutiny.
The audience experiences two sides of the titular figure, one who is still adamant about his non-doping stance and a defeated figure who has admitted to the lies. It provides an interesting experience for the viewer, allowing us the two contrasting sides of the once lauded figure.
A large portion of one’s enjoyment of this documentary can stem from your prior knowledge of Armstrong’s career. The film breezes over much of Armstrong’s glory years, meaning most cycling fans should already be well-versed in the subject matter, leaving some parts of the film seeming slightly redundant.
Nonetheless, The Armstrong Lie is another solid documentary from the productive Alex Gibney. Lance Armstrong had a controversial yet intriguing career all the same, providing ample material for a good two hours of film.
In a nutshell: A comprehensive documentary for those are interested in observing the career of Lance Armstrong just prior to his downfall.