Image: Jigsaw Pictures
Alex Gibney is a world-renowned documentary filmmaker, famous for excellent Oscar-nominated documentaries such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side. His productions are well worth watching even if you don’t enjoy them.
The Armstrong Lie is his newest, but certainly not his greatest piece of work. Gibney originally wanted to document Armstrong’s return to cycling, but after Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey about doping, he felt that the man who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles “owed me an explanation.”
We move between Armstrong back in 2009, ready to rule the cycling world once again and today, with Armstrong disgraced and derided. We also get interviews with Lance’s former teammates, journalists, and others who were hurt by Armstrong’s manipulative, two-faced, arrogant character.
If you have been following the Armstrong story quite closely, then nothing very new is revealed in this documentary. Followers of the story know all about the blood doping, the bullying of teammates who refused to comply, Armstrong suing newspapers who dared to question his legitimacy. I have followed the story very heavily over the last year and didn’t find much new here.
Gibney is good at showing how Lance looks like he regrets being caught for doping, but not doing the doping in the first place. The occasional moment occurs while Gibney is interviewing Armstrong, where he exposes just how, even after the truth has come out to the whole world, Armstrong is still a very narcissistic, mean-spirited man.
The film is a lesson in the perils of getting caught up in the middle of a story. There should be a warning to all documentary filmmakers that when you do a profile on a person, don’t get too close to them. Gibney, who is used to exposing the corrupt, becomes corrupted by the story. It’s a relief that he changes his tune and exposes the crooked side of Armstrong. But the final product is nowhere near his best work.