Big Screen Review :: The Armstrong Lie

March 22nd 2014


I never paid all that much attention to Lance Armstrong beyond casually noting the he seemed to be a superhuman athlete, but also a bit of an insufferable jerk, who copped the mother of all comeuppances.

After watching the new Alex Gibney Documentary The Armstrong Lie, I am pleased to say that I pretty much nailed it.

Armstrong is the guy who let his cancerous painful testicle grow to what he a describes as a the size of a large lemon before thinking that he maybe should get it checked out. Based on my very limited bike riding experience, other than maybe a porn star, I can’t think of a profession that would be impacted more by having a swollen painful Lemon Sized Testicle than a professional male cyclist. Alas this is not the hard hitting documentary I was after because it doesn’t go into this.

Anyway, Armstrong goes from being on death’s doors to winning Seven Tour De France, which is probably the most gruelling sporting event known to man. It’s an amazing achievement except he was riddled with performance enhancing drugs and despite denying it for ever and never testing positive he eventually had to come clean.

I used to work with a guy that took the entire month off for the Tour de France and put his stationary bike in front of the TV. He watched it all night and peddled along pretending he was riding in the French Alps. Something about that image just made me so sad. It’s probably beside the point though…

Gibney originally came on to make a documentary about Armstrong’s decision to come out of retirement in 2009 to try and win an eighth title. It was going to be a film celebrating Armstrong, but turned out much more interesting as it became clear just how spectacularly full of shit Armstrong was. So Gibney returned to the film to tell the other side of the story.

Armstrong was a cheat who ruined lives to protect his lie, but everyone was cheating so was he still the best?

Its an interesting moral question that the film doesn’t really get into. He was an arrogant hyper-competitive dickhead, but he was also a huge inspriration to everyone suffering from cancer and raised hundred of millions of dollars.

Armstrong is clearly a fascinating subject for a film but there is not much here that even casual observers like me didn’t know. At worst Gibney makes interesting and highly watchable films. At best he makes masterpieces like Taxi to the Dark Side and last years Silence in the House of God. This is not him at his best but its still the kind of film that if you found on TV you would watch it through.

Its not a must see, but you might find it interesting.

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