Thursday, 22 October 2015

REVIEW - THE PROGRAM (STEPHEN FREARS)


A biopic that's not quite a biopic, more a snapshot of a sequence in one man's life. It's the kind of story that makes for the finest of biopics, though such a conventional stance on this story is the kind that makes it little more than, alas, just another biopic. The Program moves forward with the speed of the most doped-up of cyclists, but with a staid simplicity that's a questionable fit for this most doped-up of cyclists, its subject Lance Armstrong. Ben Foster nails the man's demonic determination, but not the chillingly crazed expression in his eyes, that which makes Armstrong at once so transparent and yet so unknowable. Stephen Frears' film ought to simmer with that same crazed volatility, whereas it merely simmers with the threat of storming into life, peering deep into this madman's soul. The issue with The Program is just that - it plainly isn't deep enough, and it's thus wrong to regard it as Frears' film. Writer John Hodge floats fascinating ideas, verifiable truth all of it, and then skips ahead to the next, failing to establish the magnitude of any of these events. It's a flat depiction, all fact and no fuss; Frears is a brilliantly perceptive director with a straightforward style, and if The Program possesses any of the spirit it should, it's his doing, but the success of his style is so dependent on the quality of the script he's working from that even his strong work can't stir up much life in this film. It ends up just another biopic, when it's clearly not supposed to be.