Tuesday, 28 October 2014

15 Second Review: The Armstrong Lie (2013)

Cards on the table: I have no interest in sport and barely any knowledge about competitive cycling. Subsequently, I am probably not the ideal target audience for a documentary about seven time Tour de France "winner" Lance Armstrong. However, it is testament to Gibney's storytelling ability that, despite being fundamentally uninterested in the surrounding subject-matter, I found The Armstrong Lie riveting. Since the core story is well known, Gibney is left with space to explore the complexities of the situation; the (perhaps) conspiratorial cover-ups, the pressure of expectation, the power of inspiration, the disappointment of failure, the desire to win, the self-perpetuating nature of lies, and so forth. The film is fantastically rich, accounting for a variety of viewpoints. Most importantly, Gibney does not shy away from his own perspective on the case, underlining points at which he was swept up in the tale, and his disappointment at being lied to along with millions of others. The documentary also dwells upon the normalisation of drug-taking in competitive sports, posing uncomfortable questions about whether, for example, Armstrong really "cheated" if he was competing on equal terms with other cyclists (i.e. if the other major players were using performance enhancers). No definitive answer is available to such a question, but it is to Gibney's credit that he explores these issues rather than opting for an outright defence or vilification. Armstrong is a divisive figure, although even the most fervent anti-Armstrongists are probably most angry about their willingness to believe in the myth and to correlate good consequences (raising money for cancer research) with the agent's character. 

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