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'The Armstrong Lie' is a telling look at athlete's spin cycle

Critic's Pick: It's fascinating to see Lance Armstrong in action, whether on a bike or in denial in Alex Gibney's new documentary.

November 13, 2013|By Betsy Sharkey
  • Lance Armstrong in the documentary "The Armstrong Lie."
Lance Armstrong in the documentary "The Armstrong Lie." (Maryse Alberti, Sony Pictures…)

The constant clash of the Lance Armstrong mythology versus medal-stripped reality gives a surreal quality to Alex Gibney's clear-eyed documentary "The Armstrong Lie."

It's all fascinating watching, starting with exceptional race footage that captures the exhilaration of the superstar cyclist's sweat-drenched Tour de France wins.

The career-shattering moment with Oprah earlier this year is there too, with Armstrong's admission, finally, that he used performance-enhancing — and banned — drugs; that every single one of his legendary seven consecutive Tour wins was tainted.

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But the extensive clips of Armstrong's years of denials amid rumors and investigations are even more gripping. By weaving the facts and interviews with teammates, trainers, doctors and critics around the deceit, the filmmaker exposes the charismatic and camera-ready athlete's pathological construction of that towering house of cards.

An obsession with winning is apparent.

Why did the obsession lead to cheating? That's one of many questions the film leaves unanswered.

You won't see a changed man either. Only one caught. One who still believes he may be able to spin things his way.

Perhaps the film's loose ends are fitting, because clearly "The Armstrong Lie" is far from over.

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