Injected with new strains of mild guilt and a persecution complex, Lance Armstrong mostly maintains his post-scandal stance in Alex Gibney’s frustrating exposé (one that’s tempting to label a fiction, given the central performance). The director sat with the celebrity cyclist during his attempted 2009 comeback for what was intended to be a heroic profile, then in 2013 for a chat that doesn’t go as far as the Oprah confession. Narrating the film himself, Gibney makes no secret of his own disappointment, a risky move with a tinge of ego: He lied to me, too?
Regardless, there’s much of value here, including a revealing miniprofile of Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari – a shady figure – and some damning testimony from former teammates like Frankie Andreu and George Hincapie. An impressive amount of chemistry is explained clearly and engagingly, and Gibney goes further than any film to date in probing the big-money ramifications that would lead even official bodies to turn the other way. Yet given Armstrong’s squirminess on the couch, you’ll wish this profile had traded a portion of its deep background for a little in-the-moment boldness.