‘The Armstrong Lie,’ movie review

Lance Armstrong’s downfall is chronicled in Alex Gibney’s ‘The Armstrong Lie.’

In 2011, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney made “Catching Hell,” which deftly melded the story of shamed baseball fan Steve Bartman with the concept of scapegoating. This past summer, Gibney released “We Steal Secrets,” a biography of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that was so brilliantly composed, it felt like a portrait of our era.

And now Gibney brings us “The Armstrong Lie,” in which we learn that … Lance Armstrong is a liar.

Whether it’s because the project was rushed to completion or because Gibney — who ineffectually inserts himself into the story — felt too close to his subject, we never see the insights that define his finest documentaries. That’s too bad, since there’s so much here to be explored.

We get a lot of footage of the Tour de France, some unenlightening interviews with Armstrong and a time line pieced together by talking heads. But the movie doesn’t go deep enough into any of its themes, which include: the culture of doping, the enabling dynamic between celebrities and fans, the dangers of fame or the Devil’s deals required to achieve it.

In the end, we don’t even discover much about Armstrong himself. He wanted to win, so he did what he had to do. Then he got caught, so he did what he had to do. There’s so much more to this story — as any number of articles about the people he wronged attest — but this time, Gibney never really gets in gear.

On a mobile device? Click here to watch the trailer.

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