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The Armstrong Lie
★★★☆☆
First run Theater cinema

The prolific documentarian Alex Gibney chronicles current events in ways that feel highly personal, without putting himself at the center of his films like his contemporaries Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock do. His latest, The Armstrong Lie, follows superstar cyclist Lance Armstrong during his post-cancer Tour de France return and the subsequent doping allegations, denials, confessions and aftermath. It may be his most personal film yet. As fan of Armstrong he bought into the comeback narrative effectively spun by the cyclist and reinforced by the media. Gibney had intimate access to Armstrong at most every stage of his triumphant 2009 race, but when cheating allegations tainted the victory, the film was shelved. In 2011 Armstrong finally fessed up on Oprah about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, and Gibney restarted the documentary with the new intention of getting an honest and detailed explanation of the entire affair from Armstrong himself.

Gibney does capture the manipulative sports star as candidly as we are ever likely to see him, but Armstrong still comes across as deceitful and utterly remorseless. His arrogant justifications are contextualized somewhat by Gibney’s in-depth exploration of how corrupt the sport of cycling had become by the time of the scandals. The film is as much an expose of professional sports--its organizers, referees, and fans--as it is of Armstrong, but there is little covered in this picture that most audiences don’t already know. Still, as a character full of as much righteous denial and self-aggrandizing bluster as Tony Soprano, Armstrong is fascinating to watch.

Directed by Alex Gibney
Produced by Frank Marshall, Alex Gibney, and Matthew Tolmach

Written by Alex Gibney

With: Lance Armstrong, Reed Albergotti, Betsy Andreu, Frankie Andreu, Johan Bruyneel, Daniel Coyle, Michele Ferrari, George Hincapie, Phil Liggett, Steve Madden, Bill Strickland, Jonathan Vaughters, Emile Vrijman, David Walsh, and Alex Gibney

Cinematography: Ben Bloodwell
Editing: Tim Squyres, Andy Grieve, and Lindy Jankura

Runtime: 122 min
Release Date: 14 November 2013
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color