Ben Foster stars in a fictionalization of Lance Armstrong's spectacular rise and fall
THE PROGRAM (Stephen Frears). 103 minutes. Opens Friday (March 18). See listing. Rating: NN
This is a fictionalization of Lance Armstrong’s meteoric rise through the ranks of competitive cycling and his equally spectacular fall. The breathless movie compresses two decades of events into a speedy, oversimplified narrative in which Armstrong (played by dead ringer Ben Foster) cheats, lies and intimidates his way to global celebrity while Sunday Times journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) slowly chases the real reason behind Armstrong’s success. Working partially from Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins, Stephen Frears and screenwriter John Hodge seem more interested in delivering big dramatic moments than understanding their subject. Apart from one great scene in a children’s cancer ward – where Foster shows what he can do with Armstrong’s slippery charm and ambiguous motivations – there’s nothing here we don’t already know.