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With Jim Sabatini

The Armstrong Lie

The Armstrong Lie

Rated: R for language.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: November 27, 2013 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics

Documentarian Alex Gibney started filming this project in 2008 when Lance Armstrong was on the rise to competitive cycling after retiring in 2005 working with his crew, notably lenser Maryse Alberti.

As its moniker indicates, The Armstrong Lie (after being shelved for a while) morphed into much more than a stirring return to glory, as the gracefully scary icon (winner of an unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de France events) whose charity work included the LIVESTRONG foundation (after a successful bout with testicular cancer) became wrapped in federal investigations and testimony by colleagues and friends in a scandalous web of widespread doping which included the drug EPO.

Even if his position of assuming invincibility from a supreme form of arrogance by indicting what the sports culture did to him has been concisely examined in a variety of media formats, Gibney (who admittedly fell into 'Lancemania') still offers an intense look at duplicity (including a moral blindness and inevitable destruction) especially through candid interviews with those implicit in the scandal that an "officially clean" Armstrong violated an "omerta" or code of honor.

The Armstrong Lie moves from the 2009 Tour de France (where Armstrong finished third) to the prosecution as confessional interviews from earlier this year with Oprah Winfrey (The Butler) appear; the celebrated filmmaker himself continues the goading from allegations into the double-dealing and degeneracy of a highly competitive profession where strong legs are just part of the necessary seemingly superhuman strength.

The result ultimately may lack the ambition and provocative vitality brought to a project that really spawned in unexpected ways. If the oozing vitriol and fine tuning of the unfolding of events (an elaborate chicanery over quite a period of time) and 'he said she said' cuts a jolting pariah of sociopath behavior in a piercingly sober way, this latest chronicle of an unscrupulous descent doesn't quite have the riveting clarity when Gibney dealt with the likes of Julian Assange or Ken Lay.

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