I wonder how interesting the original documentary about Lance Armstrong would have been had the revelations last year not emerged. The original film was supposed to document the athletes return to the Tour De France after years out of the sport but luckily for Alex Gibney, the creator of the documentary, the infamous doping revelations were revealed and Gibney got a first hand look at the furore surrounding it.
This documentary isn’t just about the impact of doping on the sport and such a revered superstar though. The film is a detailed look at quite a brutal sport and the reasons that these cyclists seem forced into taking performance enhancing drugs. Even before you look at the illegal doping aspect of the story, there is plenty of material about how much skill is necessary to complete or even come close to winning – and how those skills are sometimes not enough.
The real success of the documentary is the focused, detailed look at Armstrong’s campaign and how he tried to hide his cheating. It shows his training, the different people involved in his camp and also the people who lost their careers trying to expose Armstrong before, finally getting their justified redemption on-screen.
The interviews with everyone surrounding Armstrong builds a good picture but it is the interviews with Armstrong himself that prove the most interesting and in a lot of cases, most infuriating. He explains how he hid his acts of cheating, the lengths to which it happened and why he feels justified in doing it – the most infuriating aspect of all.
It baffles belief but there is little remorse here. There are clips from the Oprah Winfrey interview that show a solemn, reflective and sorrowful Armstrong, in front of the world’s press. In this film, you get a simpler, more candid interview, where Armstrong doesn’t seem as remorseful and even argues that the doping is necessary!
The documentary will serve a couple of purposes and raise clear questions, like all good documentaries should. For example, how was Armstrong able to get away with it and are people still doing so today? Is it necessary for the athletes to dope and what does that tell you about the sport? Most of all, if everyone is doping, does that make the sport something else or even level the playing field further?
All the questions above aren’t answered but are raised in a good, focused way that has the credibility and facts to present the fairest point. You don’t get a balanced view of Armstrong, but you do get a clear idea of why he did what he did and some questions about whether it was necessary or not.
Overall, The Armstrong Lie gives an in-depth, uncensored look at the Lance Armstrong scandal. It demonstrates the depth of his cheating, the impact it has on the sport and the damage it has done to other people’s lives. It also raises clear questions in a good, unbiased way. You may not sympathise with Armstrong but his motives will be much clearer.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)