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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaw-dropping documentary is a MUST-SEE
"The Armstrong Lie" (2013 release; 122 min.), originally intended to document the comeback of Lance Armstrong in 2009 after a 4 year absence from the sport, instead is now the chronicle of the astonishing fall from grace by Armstrong, leading to his lifetime ban and stripping of his 7 Tour de France victories. As the documentary opens, Lance is talking to director...
Published 14 months ago by Paul Allaer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Concept; Questionable Loyalties
The concept was definitely interesting, but I feel that neither did the filmmaker delve into the reasons for sport-wide doping, nor did he examine the monetary or financial reasons behind this whole thing. In other words, he didn't follow the money, and seemed, for some reason, to hold the sociopath Armstrong uncomfortably close. I realize he spent years making the film...
Published 9 months ago by Sonia Nayak


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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaw-dropping documentary is a MUST-SEE, January 3, 2014
This review is from: The Armstrong Lie (DVD)
"The Armstrong Lie" (2013 release; 122 min.), originally intended to document the comeback of Lance Armstrong in 2009 after a 4 year absence from the sport, instead is now the chronicle of the astonishing fall from grace by Armstrong, leading to his lifetime ban and stripping of his 7 Tour de France victories. As the documentary opens, Lance is talking to director Alex Gibney just hours after Lance has confessed the Big Lie on the Oprah Winfrey show on January 14, 2013. The documentary then goes into depth as to how Armstrong was able to get away with the Big Lie for so many years, while also looking back at some of his major accomplishments, most notably his survival of almost fatal testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brains in 1996, and his subsequent return to professional biking and winning the Tour de France an unprecedented 7 consecutive times. The documentary also gives insights as to why (and how) Armstrong came back in 2009, and doing an extended one-on-one interview with Armstrong in June of '13 to confront him in depth with all the facts and allegations.

Several comments: first and foremost, more than one person interviewed made this comment: "the doping was bad, but the abuse of power was worse", and "it's not about the doping, it's about the power". Indeed, by now it is well documented that in the 1990s, all of professional biking was immersed by doping, EPO in particular, very similar in the way baseball was immersed by steroids at that time. "A generation of riders used EPO", comments someone. Most of them were caught, but not Armstrong. How? By massive intimidation (some say "bullying") and very advanced doping techniques, as it turns out. It wasn't until after his comeback in 2009 that many finally dared to speak out, most notably former teammates (and disgraced dopers themselves) Floyd Landis and Frankie Andreu. It is the latter and his wife Betsy who are most damaging to Armstrong. How? Just watch! Yet despite all that, we also see Armstrong doing good, with his never-ending battle against cancer through his Livestrong Foundation, raising hundreds of millions of dollars and giving hope to even more people. Which makes all of this even more of a Greek tragedy.

As an aside, the documentary contains great "behind the scenes" footage of the 2009 Tour de France comeback. Watch team manager Johan Bruyneel go ballistic when Alberto Contador goes attacking from a group containing his team mate Armstrong. Priceless. I don't know how well the documentary will play for audiences not particularly interested in professional biking. Having grown up in Belgium, I am a lifelong fan of the sport, and I found this documentary riveting and the 2 hours just flew by. This movie played briefly last month at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati and I couldn't wait to see it. The screening I saw this at was not particularly well attended (only a handful of people). Doesn't matter. This is a must-see documentary, even if you don't care for professional biking or the Tour de France, as it is a fantastic study of the fall from grace of someone who used to be an icon in today's society. "The Armstrong Lie" is HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Example of how Filmmakers Become Implicated by Their Subjects, May 22, 2014
By 
Dr. Laurence Raw (Beckenham, Kent United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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THE ARMSTRONG LIE is a fascinating documentary. Shot over a period of four years, it purports to investigate the oft-repeated claim that cyclist Lance Armstrong was a cheat, and that every single one of his Tour de France wins were achieved by taking drugs. Alex Gibney's narrative begins as a defense of Armstrong's behavior, but as different elements of the truth emerge, so the filmmaker has to keep readjusting his position. Gibney is obviously a fan of Armstrong (as many people still are), but as the seamy details of what the cyclist did in order to win his races gradually emerge, so the filmmaker gradually understands how wrong-headed he has been give his unquestioning support. Armstrong emerges as a thoroughly unsavory character, pathologically unwilling to acknowledge the truth about himself, and always looking to manipulate the media so that he emerges in a positive light. Even his so-called 'confessional' interview with Oprah looks like a deliberate attempt to rescue his reputation. As the narrative unfolds, so Gibney gradually comes to understand the truth about his subject, and realizes to his cost that much of the film has unwittingly helped to obfuscate that truth, portraying Armstrong instead as a man more sinned against than sinning. It is only right at the end that Gibney admits the truth of Armstrong's motives, and how Armstrong himself has deliberately duped the filmmaker. As a result THE ARMSTRONG LIE is a film that is more about media manipulation than anything else, revealing just how persuasive - and dangerous - a person Armstrong actually is. There's no guarantee that he might not manage to clear his reputation in the future, despite what he has done.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining even if you're not a Tour de France or biking fanatic., February 16, 2014
By 
Jeena "Maggie the Cat" (San Francisco, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
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Watching Lance Armstrong justify his use of performance enhancing drugs was interesting and somewhat convincing. His argument boils down to "everybody's doing it, so I'd be a fool (and a loser) not to." But seeing how he lied with such conviction, over and over again, and how he trashed people and wrecked lives, while interesting, was sad and rather depressing, perhaps because we've all had to deal with guys like this at one time or other. It's all about them, and if someone gets in the way, they're regarded as nothing more than road-kill that doesn't even warrant a glance in the rear-view mirror. Armstrong seems like a sociopath, albeit a rich one. He may be banned from competing, but he's made his millions, and this documentary gave me the impression that Mr. Armstrong has no self doubt and no regrets. Yes, this doc is about biking competitions, but it's really a character study. I enjoyed it, although I do think it runs a little bit too long.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Armstrong Conundrum, May 10, 2014
This review is from: The Armstrong Lie (DVD)
Well, I finally broke down and watched “The Armstrong Lie.” I’d been waiting for an opportunity to watch the documentary about the unparalleled collapse of probably the single sporting hero I admired above all others. But instead of watching the film surrounded by friends, I just plugged it into the old DVD player after the kids had gone to bed and worked my way through it alone. The DVD copy itself was the only one on the shelf, and my thoughts are that this is simply a story that people really don’t want to acknowledge. Sure there is plenty of debate and anger going on out there regarding Lance Armstrong...but there are so many contradictions on every level that most people seem to want to dig no further than their first superficial emotional reaction.

My superficial emotional reaction? Sadness.

The film starts out with some highlights from Lance’s wins, and man...there’s a hearty hollow echo of nostalgia for each and every one because I remember when they happened live and I remember how I thrilled to watch them then. There’s the moment when Lance dropped Pantani on L’Alpe d’Huez, and the moment when the spectator got too close and slammed Lance to the ground when his handlebars caught her handbag strap, and the moment when Joseba Beloki crashed in front of Armstrong leaving Armstrong with no other choice than to go offroad down the side of a mountain. It was strange watching those moments again in the context of seeing Lance as a cheat.

Then they showed some scenes of Lance with his head shaved struggling to push out a couple miles on his bike, and I couldn’t help but remember what a blow it was when we learned he had cancer.

But let’s be clear, this isn’t a pro Armstrong film. It’s called “The Armstrong Lie” and the fundamental theme of the movie is how Armstrong cheated. The driving force of the film as it was originally conceived was to document Armstrong’s return to racing in the 2009 Tour de France. To this day, Armstrong insists that he did that race clean, although the film documents how a spike in his red blood cell count has been taken as an indication of an illegal blood transfusion (Armstrong’s explanation is that the blood sample in question was taken immediately after the Ventoux stage when he was “dehydrated” and it wasn’t...blah, blah, blah—sorry, but you can’t trust anything he says).

In terms of the doping, lying, bullying, this film doesn’t show you anything new. However, there is a reason to watch it, and that reason is the footage that was shot of Armstrong during non-racing moments in the 2009 tour. We’ve all seen Armstrong charging to the finish in pursuit of a stage victory, but we’ve never seen him in the recuperation moments after stages that have gone well or—in the case of the 2009 tour—poorly. The truth is that Armstrong has such a well-polished public persona, that it’s rare that you get a glimpse of the actual man. He’s always “on,” always demonstrating a refined image that is very much under his control. I think one of the things about Armstrong that made him easy to portray as a villain is that we don’t know who he is. What we’re allowed to see is always coldly calculated. That was especially apparent during the infamous Oprah interview when he seemed to be able to work up some tears or drop his boyish smile on cue. But in “The Armstrong Lie” there are moments filmed in hotels between stages where you see a different, and I think, more honest side of the man.

Armstrong reflects on the 2009 tour candidly at one point and says he doesn’t know if he wasn’t more dominant because he was older, or because he wasn’t doping, or for some other reason. I found it interesting that he listed age before his lack of doping (although, again, there is debate over whether he doped in 2009). In that tour, Armstrong found himself in a battle with his own teammate Alberto Contador which continues throughout the race in absurd ways even though Contador early on proves himself to be the better rider. For example, there is a moment in the tour where Johan Bruyneel tells Contador not to work in a breakaway because he doesn’t want an accelerated pace that might risk pushing Armstrong off the podium. Contador responds by attacking, and Bruyneel is left slamming his headset against the dashboard of his support car.

Really, Contador was in the right. It’s stupid to risk the overall classification of the Tour so a weaker teammate can get on the podium. But that’s the Armstrong effect, the guy makes the regular rules irrelevant. Armstrong even defends some unconventional tactics at one point by saying, “we’re doing it that way because I’ve won the Tour 7 times!”

But there are a lot of moments in that 2009 tour that clearly demonstrate the party is over. At one point, Armstrong is sitting on a hotel bed watching the results of the initial prologue. He’d briefly been in first place, but one by one his rivals post better times. It’s compelling to watch Armstrong sit there and seethe as he sees his result bettered. He doesn’t do, or say anything, but I think in that moment you understand Armstrong and there’s something in the anguish he feels that isn’t wholly despicable. He looks like a very frustrated ten year old boy who is resolved to not allow his pain continue no matter what the consequences are. It’s like a silent temper tantrum with all the emotion of a child and none of the rational maturity of a reasoning adult. How is it that a guy like Armstrong who had accomplished so much at that point still could get worked up into such an unpleasant emotional place? It seemed like nothing in his life had taken the edge off, and yes, this is a person who is compelled by something to put his own personal health at great risk just for the fleeting joy of having the best time in a bike race?

As the race develops and Contador pulls away, Armstrong admits he feels “tension” for the Spaniard (the Spaniard claims the feeling is not mutual, but he pressures Armstrong on the course every chance he gets). The only moment that Armstrong looks like he finds a bit of peace is when he accepts his chances of winning are gone, yet he manages to “win” a place on the podium (again, maybe with the help of a blood transfusion).

At the end of the film, I didn’t feel anger against Armstrong, but sadness. This is a guy with an emotional hunger that will never be filled. I really wish the film, or the media in general, would start discussing what the long term effects of Armstrong’s doping are. Did this guy willingly sentence himself to an early grave for his fleeting glory?

Or who knows? Maybe he just wants to be paid attention to? Maybe he’s grateful for this scandal because it’s kept him relevant over the last year.

I think, though, that the people who don’t think Armstrong has been punished enough might enjoy this film. You see the guy suffering and I at least realized that this is not an emotionally healthy person. His treatment of people along the way cannot be justified, but the “attack/win at all costs” component of Armstrong’s personality was never a secret. The film doesn’t justify anything, but I think it helps give you a better understanding of why events played out as it did. In a scandal as wide reaching as this, understanding is about all you can hope for. Hopefully peace will come to all the players, maybe further down the road.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not just about Lance, July 26, 2014
This review is from: The Armstrong Lie (DVD)
This movie was well documented, thorough, and well organized in how it presented the information to make their case. The only thing that bothers me is the way everyone keeps saying Lance Armstrong destroyed the sport of cycling. The sport destroyed itself, Lance Armstrong was just a major player and made the lie so big it could not be contained. Corruption ran from the head of the cycling organization right down to the people who filled water bottles and got towels for the racers. They all knew. Many of the people calling for Armstrong's head were themselves either cheaters or the spouse of a cheater who had been caught and punished. Only after being caught did these people speak out again Armstrong and they seemed more determined to get Lance for his ruthless attach against his accusers than they seemed to be concerned with trying to clean up the sport in general. As I watched this movie it seemed as though all of them were inside some little bubble of self deception that none of them seemed to recognized. One thing is clear, no matter what Armstrong says or does for the rest of his life, no one will believe him. Example, even when he confessed, people still claimed at least part of what he was saying was a lie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Concept; Questionable Loyalties, May 12, 2014
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The concept was definitely interesting, but I feel that neither did the filmmaker delve into the reasons for sport-wide doping, nor did he examine the monetary or financial reasons behind this whole thing. In other words, he didn't follow the money, and seemed, for some reason, to hold the sociopath Armstrong uncomfortably close. I realize he spent years making the film and believing the lies, but he still seemed to "have a horse
in the race." Also, I feel as though at times the filmmaker's personal voice over distracted and detracted from the matters at hand.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... the proverbial fan I was one of the most disappointed. This film is brilliant due to the fact ..., April 30, 2014
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This review is from: The Armstrong Lie (DVD)
I admired this man more than most and when the poop hit the proverbial fan I was one of the most disappointed. This film is brilliant due to the fact the the filmmaker set out to glorify Armstrong but, in the end, had to do that which is right and portray him for the egocentric that he is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Bio, December 4, 2014
By 
Fernando (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Armstrong Lie (DVD)
Pretty good and exhaustive documentary about Armstrong's perfect lie scandal and the corrupt system around him. My sister and brother-in-law happen to be amateur judges in this sport and watching this made me realize I know next to nothing about it or its subculture. And a subculture it is: the community, back deals, feuds and friendships, endorsements and the passion make up a world that most Americans know nothing about - ironic, since Armstrong is the most famous, and infamous, cyclist who has ever lived.

This project actually started out as a comeback doc for Armstrong, until the evidence against Armstrong became so clear that neither director Alex Gibney nor anyone else who wanted to believe it could fool themselves any longer. It does a marvelous job explaining how this ruse could be carried out for so long - because everyone who knew about it refused to say anything until either put under oath or through plain jealousy for falling out of favor with the industry. The irony is almost too much, in spite of this being such an open secret and there being so many characters making too much money out of this farce, the lie could have probably survived for ever had Armstrong not made the 2009 comeback. The pesky allegations would eventually have disappeared as Armstrong's story became legend, but he couldn't resist the lure of coming back.

As the rest of characters take center stage and say their peace we realize how petty, vain, vindictive many of them are (this through their own voice) and Armstrong was just the most visible actor. The Andreus, especially the wife, a particularly odious and unpleasant character, fare even worse than Armstrong. I didn't really understand their self-victimization after their 2005 deposition - of course Armstrong was going to deny it, but they seem to have taken it as a personal slight and not the industry structural lie that it was. Frankie Andreu HAD taken EPO, but apparently they felt that since they were ready to come clean about it then everyone else had to. I was left wondering if the doc had done a good job at explaining their anger toward Armstrong or if it indeed had, and we were just seeing pettiness at its worst.

TAL is a great jambalaya of human drama, too many twists and turns no one but diehard fans would care about, but interestingly, it is about deeper things too. Initially, I got caught in the drama of little details and facts, and then remembered it is just about a sport. The cliché follow-up to that would be "it's not like this is about curing cancer or anything" but in an odd and positive way, it was! People became interested in the story because Armstrong's survivor tale. He became cancer survivors' hero and the cancer research ambassador. This combined with his preacher-like certainty when denying EVERY doping allegation for OVER a DECADE, while NONE of the testing showed any abnormality (now we know the UCI cover-up). This wasn't just the most profitable lie in sports history, it was also the best lie too. No one wanted to kill that golden goose, well, no one who was still benefitting from it.

Director Alex Gibney is honest about finding himself falling for the myth, we all did. I always thought Armstrong was an arrogant ass but I rooted for him for beating a disease that has hit people so dear to me and disproving vicious critics (some of them really low-lives). At the end, the picture of Armstrong is not simpler but more complex; not only is he an arrogant ass, he's a narcissist too in love with his image and self-importance who found a thousand justifications to believe his own lie... And yet, did he really lose? One can argue he disappointed his fans, especially the ones fighting cancer, well true, but he also raised hundreds of millions in aid to cancer patients and families, THAT, you can quantify. And really, when you take into account that virtually every rider was doping and this former cancer patient who came back to win it all was no exception, you have to admit he won based on the rules of the game. Yes, he was doping, and so was virtually everyone else, and he still won. Armstrong WON those races.

Like many people I saw Lance Armstrong as an almost superman who had it all: meaning, world fame, millions of dollars, credibility, a survivor tale, a gorgeous rock star girlfriend, a jet set lifestyle and uncanny self-confidence and certainty. And as I watched him crumble in the interviews and ridiculously trying to salvage any justification, I actually liked him more. He was more relatable and real than the BS superhero he was so intent in being seen as. I realized how weak his sense of self was. I recognized the drama; like me and many others Armstrong was a boy who grew up without a father, and had to figure out on his own, while still a child, how to be a strong man for a single mother. So he became strong and overconfident and he excelled. Then he got sick, but survived, he trained harder and cheated and put winning above everything. And then he lost. Well, sorta.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whoa. Compelling., November 20, 2014
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As an Austinite of some years, I remember how the city held this favorite son to its bosom, with messages of encouragement chalked out on the streets of every neighborhood. Even Former President Bill Clinton sported the jaunty yellow LIVESTRONG wristband in full Cat-Daddy endorsement of Armstrong's message and courage in the face of cancer.
And this movie makes you realize that this was a bad dude. Armstrong not only lied to the public, government bodies and corporations from which he received money, but assiduously tried to destroy his friends. Maybe after watching this, if possible, you'd still go get a beer with this guy, hear his war stories (Lance is a great raconteur and communicator) and frank admissions, but never for a second forget his transgressions. He should probably be charged with perjury.
One of the most telling scenes of the movie centers around his failed Tour De France comeback in 2009, and back at the hotel Lance suddenly realizes he won't win, and might just settle for a "podium position," then turns to the camera and apologizes for ruining the documentary. Maybe Lance was addicted to the race to fame, but it seems like he thought he was just doing what we expected of him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating tale told from both sides, April 30, 2014
This review is from: The Armstrong Lie (DVD)
As others already commented, the documentarian started out thinking to make a positive documentary about Lance's comeback to the Tour de France after already winning 7 times. Armstrong, long dogged by allegations of "doping", insisted that his 2009 race would be absolutely clean, and that he would post his blood results online. Unlike his last win in 2005, he finished in third place that time, but continued competing in other cycling events. Before Gibney could finish his documentary, Armstrong ended up appearing on the Oprah show and confessing that he had indeed used various banned substances for every one of his 7 victories in the Tour de France. This put quite a different spin on Gibney's documentary, so in addition to the footage he had from the 2009 race, he interviewed several of the persons who had publicly accused Armstrong of doping despite his vehement denials, others who admitted it under investigation--and Armstrong himself as to how he now felt about the "doping".

Armstrong comes across in the 1:1 interviews as fairly candid (after all, he admitted almost everything already on Oprah) though not particularly repentant. One of his "justifications" was simply this: everyone who was a serious competitor in the Tour de France, in the years that he won, was doping. Those who were not doping were simply from countries or teams who lacked the expertise to do it without getting caught, and they didn't win or come close.

His detractors say: it wasn't just about the doping. It was the sheer ruthlessness with which he went after anyone who tried to tell the truth: destroying any chance of their being involved in international biking competitions, threatening lawsuits, personally attacking their character and so on.

And then there's the cancer foundation. Several hundred million dollars raised to help children with cancer, through the foundation he began. And the great boost to competitive bicycling due, more than anyone else, to Lance Armstrong. And his amazing recovery from metastatic testicular cancer, going on to win 5 more Tour de France races afterward.

I have not been any enthusiast of bicycling, let along competitive racing. I thought the documentary might be a good portrayal of the character of someone who competes (and wins) at this kind of world-class level, which it was. There is a single-minded, ruthless determination to win that tends to characterize many at the top of international competitions (and businesses). In that sense, the Armstrong "story" is perhaps emblematic of the entire culture of competition and what it tends to give rise to: some of the best, and some of the worst of human behavior, all wrapped together.

I note there are at least 2 other documentaries out now on the same general topic. This one was enough for me. It's a complex story and one that can't be reduced to simple "good" and "bad" (like life itself). Well done.
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The Armstrong Lie [Blu-ray]
The Armstrong Lie [Blu-ray] by Alex Gibney (Blu-ray - 2014)
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