Alex Gibney, Academy Award-winning documentary film director of "Taxi to the Dark Side" and "ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room," has just released his new film "The Armstrong Lie." It opens Friday at the Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis.
The documentary follows cyclist Lance Armstrong's fall from grace after a doping scandal.
"'The Armstrong Lie' doesn't break much news, but in it Gibney assembles a case so exhaustive and damning that anyone who sees the cyclist as merely a liar will be forced to reclassify him as a sociopath," writes Andrew Goldman in Men's Journal.
Gibney was originally working on "an uplifting documentary about Armstrong's second comeback, for the 2009 Tour de France," wrote Chris Michael of The Guardian:
In the aftermath of the scandal that disgraced Armstrong as a cheat and bully, one of those former believers, film-maker Alex Gibney, gradually realized he was sitting on a goldmine... The famous cyclist, thinking the movie would be a puff piece, gave Gibney unprecedented access. Gibney filmed Armstrong lounging in hotel rooms, joking with his inner circle, getting upset with surprise drugs tests at his home as his daughters look on. Armstrong also allowed Gibney to interview Michele Ferrari, his notorious "doping doctor", who admits with a grin to continuing to give Armstrong "advice" well past the date Armstrong had supposedly cut off ties.
"In all their arrogance, Armstrong and his team figured there was nothing to be discovered," Gibney told the Toronto international film festival the afternoon after the premiere of his film The Armstrong Lie. "So it ended up being a rather extraordinary opportunity to see something that was hiding in plain sight — but was actually there, we could find it."
Justin Chang, the film critic for Variety, said the film shows how Armstrong smartly created his own image through the inspirational story of beating cancer and overcoming hardships.
More from Chang's review:
"This is not a story about doping; it's a story about power," one interviewee shrewdly notes, and "The Armstrong Lie" zeroes in on the cynical realities of a sport where victory falls to those with the best medical and financial resources, and where the lure of sponsorships, massive publicity and millions of dollars in cancer-fighting research can encourage even the head of the Intl. Cycling Union to look the other way. The film also taps into the warped mentality of a professional sport where everyone of consequence is assumed to be doping under a code of collective silence, making it easy enough for a cheater to convince himself he isn't gaining an unfair advantage so much as staying competitive.