THE PROGRAM Film Review
Like Best Picture Oscar winner Spotlight, British director Stephen Frears’ (2006’s The Queen) The Program also features a media expose. Real life Aussie sports reporter David Walsh (portrayed by Irish actor David O’Dowd) refuses to buy into cyclist Lance Armstrong’s (Ben Foster) hype and self-aggrandizing mythology as the seven-time Tour de France champion. Despite resistance from his colleagues and editor, the suspicious Walsh probes Armstrong and his team for taking performance enhancing drugs in order to win their bicycle races. Dustin Hoffman portrays a risk insurance expert who also suspects foul play. The Program indicates that Armstrong didn’t exhibit signs of cancer until after he took EPO, perhaps suggesting, irony of ironies, that doping might have actually brought on his testicular cancer.
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“What price winning?” in capitalist America (and France!), where fame and fortune is everything, asks this trenchant, no-holds-barred drama written by John Hodge (2000’s The Beach), based on Walsh’s book. The movie also raises important questions - and eyebrows - about the way athletes are feted with fame, fortune, status, groupies, etc. I saw The Program while I was in Switzerland during 2015’s Zürich Film Festival and now it has opened in Los Angeles. Jump on your mountain bike, put it in first gear and cycle to go see it.