'The Armstrong Lie' documentary chronicles storied cyclist Lance Armstrong's rise, his many denials about drug use and ultimately his confession. (Maryse Alberti / AP)
Isn’t Lance Armstrong sort of old news?
The dude won the Tour de France seven times, cheating all the while by taking performance-enhancing drugs. Of course, everyone in bicycling was supposedly cheating right along with him, but Armstrong was so vociferous in denying his drug-taking, and such a huge heroic sports figure, that when he finally admitted the truth it was a big deal.
But that was in 2012. Why should we care about him now? Why dredge it all up again?
Those are questions “The Armstrong Lie” never really answers. The film’s main reason for existing seems to be that filmmaker Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) shot a lot of footage around Armstrong’s attempted 2009 comeback. What was potentially a celebratory film went sour when Armstrong’s fellow bicyclists suddenly found themselves facing legal consequences and decided to turn on him.
When Armstrong agreed to talk to Gibney about the lying, after his big televised confession to Oprah Winfrey, the filmmaker apparently decided he had enough for a movie. And so he trots out the Armstrong story — his rise in Texas, his battle with cancer, the (too) amazing victories, the endless accusations, the equally endless denials.
And then he burns up a good deal of that footage from 2009. And adds on a lot of repetitious Lance truth-telling. None of which feels particularly new or enlightening.
So many options feel unexplored. Bicycling is hardly the only sport in which performance-enhancers are used, so why not open it up in that way? Why not question the banning of such drugs in the first place? Why not set this lie in the context of other great, media-sanctioned lies?
But “The Armstrong Lie” simply offers up the Armstrong lie. Sorry, but we’ve all already heard that one.
'The Armstrong Lie'
Rated R for language
Running time: 122 minutes