I REMEMBER clearly watching Channel 4’s coverage of the Tour De France and the superhuman endeavour that would push men to compete more than 2,200 miles in three weeks across a huge country and over some of the most challenging mountains and climbs in the world of sport – efforts that help make Alex Gibney’s new documentary, The Armstrong Lie, such a compelling tale.
Granted unprecedented access to the Lance Armstrong team – Astana – in 2009 (the year that Armstrong decided to return to competition after having retired following his record-breaking seventh Tour De France win), Gibney set out to capture what the subject himself was determined to prove was a “clean” performance.
The movie effectively came to a halt after the revelations of the extent of Armstrong’s involvement in performance enhancement, and as the facade he created and forcefully maintained to protect his carefully-constructed public image crumbled.
However, the film began again after Lance came clean in January 2013, was stripped of all of his titles and achievements, and then banned from competition for life.
Opening and closing with his confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013, the film builds a compelling story of Armstrong’s ride to power and his determination to keep it at all costs, facing his opponents, including life-threatening cancer, and the critics who questioned his miraculous performances, with unflinching ferocity.
Drawing on fascinating interviews with former friends and teammates, journalists and writers, The Armstrong Lie is interspersed with archive footage from throughout the cyclist’s career, culminating in captivating and beautifully-filmed footage from the 2009 tour to which Gibney was allowed all-access privileges, which one watches intently today with the foreknowledge of the subterfuge afoot.
A hugely compelling story, The Armstrong Lie is a thorough and detailed insight into one of the most fascinating sporting stories of all time, and an insight into a competitor whose fierce desire to dominate his sport came to dominate his entire life and led to his eventual downfall.