Often supporting in his previous films, Ben Foster finally gets ahead of the competition and does his best to stay there in Stephen Frears adaptation of the biggest scandal on two wheels with The Program. Naturally, the one thing that needs to be handled well besides his cheating is the sport he dominated and was eventually damned by, which Foster steers like a questionably enhanced pro. Opening to him flying down roads at breathtaking speeds, the scenes are handled by impressive cinematography from Danny Cohen and flawless editing by Valerio Bonelli who cuts between the sham and the man playing him brilliantly throughout. For that area of the film, the wheels are well and truly turning, it’s only when Lance gets off the bike that the film slows down and takes a rather pedestrian route.
The story as we all know is definitely there, as are the fascinating viewpoints from which it’s told. On one side we’ve got Ben Foster staring into the mirror seeing a man literally lying to himself after deciding to get an edge on the competition. On the other, the fan turned journalistic foe David Walsh (whose book ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’ was the basis of the film) played by Chris O’Dowd who is proving he doesn’t need to get a laugh to handle a role.
The man mostly known for asking if you’ve turned your computer on and off again is permanently switched on as the one person who went against the Tour De Lance, but doesn’t get the opportunity to expand further with a character that was integral to the story. There’s no biting confrontation between the two that provides that almost air-punching moment you know would eventually come. Overall, The Program is a watchable but relatively smooth ride that doesn’t get into the nitty gritty like it has the potential to do.
Even with the cast (including Jesse Plemons and a wasted Dustin Hoffman) and the surprising turns from it’s leading pair, there’s a bittersweet irony to The Program. The story of the biggest cheat in sport is upsettingly by the book but should hopefully work as another push for Foster and O’Dowd, who both deliver on the roles they have with as much as they can do.