The Program

March 18th, 2016


The Program

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Release Year: 2015

Rating: 6.5/10 ( voted)

Critic's Score: /100

Director: Stephen Frears

Stars: Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Guillaume Canet

An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances. With this conviction, he starts hunting for evidence that will expose Armstrong.

Writers: John Hodge, David Walsh, Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Guillaume Canet, Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Guillaume Canet, Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace, Denis Ménochet, Edward Hogg, Dustin Hoffman, Elaine Cassidy, Laura Donnelly, Peter Wight, Nathan Wiley, Chris Larkin, Mark Little, Sid Phoenix, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ben Foster - Lance Armstrong
Chris O'Dowd - David Walsh
Guillaume Canet - Medecin Michele Ferrari
Jesse Plemons - Floyd Landis
Lee Pace - Bill Stapleton
Denis Ménochet - Johan Bruyneel
Edward Hogg - Frankie Andreu
Dustin Hoffman - Bob Hamman
Elaine Cassidy - Betsy Andreu
Laura Donnelly - Emma O'Reilly
Peter Wight - Sunday Times editor
Nathan Wiley - Charles Pelkey
Chris Larkin - John Wilcockson
Mark Little - Rupert Guinness
Sid Phoenix - Tony

Taglines: The legend. The truth. The source. The science.


Official Website: Official site

Country: UK, France

Language: English

Release Date: 3 Jan 2015

Filming Locations: Austin, Texas, USA

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The film is based on Walsh's book "Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong". See more »

In many of the scenes showing Armstrong riding in his early tour wins he is seen wearing Oakley Radar Sunglasses that were not yet released. See more »


User Review


Rating: 8/10

I can see this film dividing opinion, since bike fanatics (of which the UK has a high number) will seek to pick holes in the reality of the story and staging in the same way that a locomotive fan will point out that the 4472, "Flying Scotsman" shouldn't have been in a film set in 1926! I'm not a keen cyclist, (unless you count pottering around the New Forest occasionally as 'cycling'), so I approached Stephen Frears' new biopic on disgraced superstar Lance Armstrong with some reservations. But I really enjoyed it.

Armstrong is portrayed as a massively competitive individual that won't lose at cycling or table football, and won't die (from cancer) either. The film deftly portrays how this drive for success dragged him, like quicksand, into the world of illicit doping. In fact, for much of the film, given that he mixes all of this up with fervent support for cancer charities, I ended up feeling quite sorry for the guy: someone who knows he is cheating and fooling the world but sees it as a viable means to an end. However as his lying, both about the doping and his personal past achievements, becomes more and more cringe-worthy, he becomes a pathetic figure: this is not a great PR exercise for Armstrong.

Above all, the film is a warning shot against having too much belief in overly self-confident people. There are some people who can claim wrong is right and be believed because they state the case with such vehemence and, as portrayed, Armstrong was certainly one of those. In a year of (alleged) similar sporting performances at FIFA, it's a lesson worth learning.

Armstrong is brought brilliantly to life by lookalike Ben Foster, an actor who I must admit to date has rather passed me by. This performance to me deserves a shot at an Oscar nomination. There are parts of the film where he goes all Eddie "Hawking" Redmayne, but aside from these more physical moments, check out the scene where he comes third: just jaw-droppingly effective acting, mixing incredulity and rage all on the same face at the same time. Very impressed.

Foster is backed up by a strong supporting cast: Chris O'Dowd ("Bridesmaids", "Calvary") plays the Irish journalist David Walsh, doggedly pursuing the doping story. It's a believable performance. Jesse Plemons is also great in the complex role of Floyd Landis, a fellow rider on the team who has to struggle with not only lying to the public but (more painfully) to his Pennsylvanian Amish community. Denis Ménochet ("Inglorious Basterds") is also striking as Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong's coach. While getting strong billing, Dustin Hoffman is great, as always, but has little more than a cameo in the film over a couple of scenes. (And talking of random cameos (though I can't see him credited) did I spot Bond producer Michael G Wilson as Armstrong's doctor?).

The sweeping camera shots of cinematographer Danny Cohen ("Les Miserables", "The King's Speech") brings the cycling scenes to life, and are nicely melded with actual footage of the races. (Though some of the Paris green screen award-giving work is rather less convincing).

Director Stephen Frears ("The Queen", "Philomena") directs, and wisely chooses to keep the film to a compact and entertaining 103 minutes.

This has been a good year for biopics, and following the excellent "Love and Mercy" about Brian Wilson, "The Program" makes it onto my list as one of the top 10 of the year so far. Recommended.

(A graphical version of this review is also available at bob-the-movie-


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The Program

September 24th, 1993


The Program

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Still of David S. Ward in The ProgramStill of James Caan and Abraham Benrubi in The ProgramStill of James Caan and Craig Sheffer in The ProgramStill of Craig Sheffer and Kristy Swanson in The ProgramStill of Kristy Swanson in The ProgramStill of James Caan and David S. Ward in The Program

Several players from different backgrounds try to cope with the pressures of playing football at a major university...

Release Year: 1993

Rating: 6.1/10 (4,575 voted)

Director: David S. Ward

Stars: James Caan, Halle Berry, Omar Epps

Several players from different backgrounds try to cope with the pressures of playing football at a major university. Each deals with the pressure differently, some turn to drinking, others to drugs, and some to studying.

Writers: David S. Ward, Aaron Latham

James Caan - Sam Winters
Halle Berry - Autumn Haley
Omar Epps - Darnell Jefferson
Craig Sheffer - Joe Kane
Kristy Swanson - Camille Shafer
Abraham Benrubi - Bud-Lite Kaminski
Duane Davis - Alvin Mack
Jon Pennell - Bobby Collins (as Jon Maynard Pennell)
Joey Lauren Adams - Louanne (as Joey Adams)
J.C. Quinn - Joe's Father
Andrew Bryniarski - Steve Lattimer
J. Leon Pridgen II - Ray Griffen
Michael Flippo - Coach Humes (as Mike Flippo)
Jeff Portell - Reporter #1
Ernest Dixon - Coach Clayton

Taglines: Pressure surrounds them. Competition divides them. Talent unites them. A story of what it takes to survive...

Release Date: 24 September 1993

Filming Locations: Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA

Gross: $23,004,026 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Michigan coaching legend Glenn E. (Bo) Schembechler is in the booth providing color commentary for the Michigan game.

Audio/visual unsynchronized: There's no possible way Darnell Jefferson would be able to speak so clearly while having a mouthpiece in his mouth during the game against Michigan.

Coach Winters: We gotta ring that bell! We gotta to ring that championship bell!
Steve Lattimer: Ding motherfu**ing dong!

User Review

Underrated, Accurate Football Movie Starring the Godfather's James Caan

Rating: 8/10

Trips Bunch. The Power I. The Cover 2. If you know what these terms mean, and understand their uses in football strategy, then you'll really enjoy watching David S. Ward's the Program. Ward also wrote and directed Major League, a great movie; however, with The Program, it is obvious how much his sports writing style has evolved.

The movie traces one season of college football for a once dominate, but now struggling Division 1 powerhouse, the fictional ESU Timeberwolves. James Caan is hilarious and well-cast as the Head Coach on the hot seat, and it's really great watching him deal with serious issues both on and off the field. Craig Shaeffer does a solid job at both his role and the QB position. His character is like a young, much more tortured Steve Young: he can throw the long ball, he can buy time with his feet, and he can do it all while battling inner demons. Omar Epps (the Wood) is simply perfectly cast as Darnell Jefferson, the prototype freshman Tailback fighting for his spot on the 1st team (plus the beautiful Halle Berry plays his love interest).

The movie is filled with hilariously awesome lines and performances, and is a classic among people who actually play football. While the editing work could be scrutinized among movie Nazis (the editing job when Kane and his girl are riding his motorcycle is questionable at times), the good far outweighs the bad. Namely, the in-helmet camera work really puts you on the field with them. Overall, David S. Ward does an excellent job of jumping from perspective to perspective, and it quickly builds into this chaotic, early 90s mosaic of Division 1 college football. And surprisingly, the issues explored in the film really resonate with the issues going on in today's sports (i.e. Steroids, Motorcycle death wishes).

Listen, if you haven't seen this movie, and you love football, and are of mild intelligence, then you are either really young or really lucky that you missed it because I wish i could watch it again for the first time. However, if you have no appreciation for the game of football, you're better off going elsewhere. Football idealists, be warned as well. This movie is the anti-Rudy. It's the story of one school's fight for a bowl bid, and fighting for that bid at all costs.

PS- My vote is very biased. I love to quote this movie with friends. I love to watch football on both Saturday and Sunday. I play fantasy football. I play Madden. I played Division 3 football in college. You have been warned. The only reason I didn't rate it higher than I did is because some of the scenes between Joe Kane and his woman can get a little bit slow. But she's cute if that helps you out at all (her early 90's style is classic).


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