This evening I went to see The Program, because there’s no better way to avoid jet lag than to sit in a darkened room, eschewing all natural light. (Although to be fair, if you’re going to take part in a fundamentally unsociable activity, what better time to do it than when separated from your family by six thousand miles?) And what could be better than the feel-bad film of 2015?
I try to avoid discovering the twists in a film’s plot plots before I watch it. That’s hard with The Program, because having not lived under a rock for the last few years, I know that Lance Armstrong is going to get caught out at the end.
I’d forgotten how much he’d won: the film gets to 2003 and I was thinking that was about it – he’d won his five titles, then the film would have to wait most of a decade before delivering his comeuppance. I was rudely reminded he’d not stopped at five, but carried on to take seven consecutive Tour de France victories. (And lots and lots of drugs, too.)
In advance, I hadn’t been convinced by the casting; Ben Foster as Armstrong seemed a little too chubby in the face, but he nailed that evil glare. Chris O’Dowd was a revelation in a serious role (last seen as a seedy love rat in Cuban Fury) and everyone else, with the exception of Dustin Hoffman, adequately vanished into their role. At the end, you’re just left wondering whether Lance was always like this, or if all that was required for his descent was five minutes’ temptation from a cheery Belgian.
That, and can I get a refund for my copy of The Lance Armstrong Performance Plan?