The Armstrong Lie

Movie Review #714


Jigsaw Productions
The Kennedy/Marshall Company
Matt Tolmach Productions

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Alex Gibney. Produced by Alex Gibney, Frank Marshall, and Matthew Tolmach. Writer: Alex Gibney.

Rated R by the MPAA – profanity. Runs 2 hours, 4 minutes. Premiered at Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2013; at Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2013; at Zurich Film Festival on September 29, 2013; at Hamptons International Film Festival on October 12, 2013; at London Film Festival on October 16, 2013; and at American Film Festival on October 25, 2013. Limited release in the USA on November 8, 2013.

With Reed Albergotti, Betsy Andreu, Frankie Andreu, Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Daniel Coyle, Michele Ferrari, George Hincapie, Phil Liggett, Steve Madden, Bill Strickland, Jonathan Vaughters, Emile Vrijman, and David Walsh.

Cinemaniac Reviews two stars

It’s the way Alex Gibney opens his documentary that tells me he really believed in Lance Armstrong. The disappointment is audible in his voice as he explains how this film, “The Armstrong Lie”, originally started as a chronicle of Lance’s return to le Tour de France. I have to say, though, that after doping was proven to be the reason for Lance’s domination of les Tours de France for seven straight years, Gibney should’ve just dropped the documentary. As someone who grew up in a family that supported the pantheon of cyclists, at the top of which stood Lance Armstrong, the documentary should have had an effect on me in the way hearing about him in the news at any other time did. I find it strange that I feel far more pissed off at Lance as I write this review than I did watching the documentary.

The movie’s approach is rarely anything new; when it is, it’s repetitive and unnecessary. There’s far too much focus on the drugs Lance used, his plans on how to use those drugs without getting caught. An interesting topic at first, but it often feels like a feature-length report on performance-enhancing drugs like EPO. That I learned more about how red blood cells are key to one’s success in pro cycling, than about how (and why) Lance has lied to us over the years, is terribly unexpected. As someone says early on in the documentary, “This is not a story about doping, it’s a story about power.” It’s so tiresome having to go through two hours hearing about how this nut was cracked. A movie with a title that is “The Armstrong Lie” should explore a much broader topic only fleetingly mentioned: Lance’s manipulation of his fans. His abuse of the power he had as a celebrity. The documentary is often times depressing and disgusting, but I’m led to believe that that comes naturally. I went in with an actual documentary in mind, something on the hamartia of Lance the Deplorable. I came out feeling like I’d just rewatched “Trainspotting”.

Coming Reviews

La Strada
Young Adult



7 thoughts on “The Armstrong Lie

  1. Good review. Gibney truly is one of our better documentary film makers, as he doesn’t stop searching, until he reveals the truth. And here, with Armstrong, you never quite know what is the truth, or what’s just him trying to protect his own ass. Maybe, we’ll never know?

    • Never heard of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. I’ll have to check it out.

      I thought I’d heard of Gibney for something else too, besides these two films.

      Thanks. It’s a really depressing documentary. That Lance can admit to all of what he’s been covering for years, and not feel any shame all of a sudden, is as confusing as it is aggravating. Though we got all that in the news, didn’t we?

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