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Jaw-dropping documentary is a MUST-SEE
on January 3, 2014
"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!