Daily Recco, June 4: Icarus, a documentary more gripping than most fictional thrillers
Icarus is considered among the best whistle-blower films in the recent past. A thrilling documentary with a climax that will blow your mind.
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An avid and competitive amateur cyclist is incensed by a doping scandal in his favourite sport. He is convinced that there’s more to it than what’s been reported. He starts prodding and probing to unravel the ‘truth’ and comes across what appears to be a global conspiracy. The power of his jaw-dropping revelations has stuff that can blow away governments.
Stuff for a sports-based-fictional thriller? Well, that is what Icarus (2017) is not — fiction. This documentary by filmmaker Bryan Fogel (the amateur cyclist we mentioned earlier) begins with an innocuous investigation into the Lance Armstrong doping scandal. Armstrong, an American cyclist, lost more than his reputation in the scandal. During the investigation, Fogel covertly collaborates with the head of a dope check sports committee. And goes on to show how dope checks in sporting events could be deceived.
What starts off as a run-of-the-mill probe, soon gets unexpected and thrilling twists. A state-sponsored scientist's life seems to be circling down the drain, even as some of his associates seem to die mysteriously. Fogel's journey to make the documentary is marred with corruption and violence that seems to percolate right from the very top. And when we say the very top, imagine the topmost layer of authority that could be.
Fogel knows when to step away from the limelight. When he realises that his own story of uncovering one scandal has led him to a far juicier scoop than he could have possibly imagined, he does the wisest thing - keep quiet and keep filming. He knows better than to override the narrative with his own tales and lets the rapidly unravelling events take their course and tell their story. It is very important for a filmmaker to know when to shut up and let the events play their course. Fogel aces that game.
A brilliant documentary that has a cool combination of animation, interviews and undercover footage, a plot with nail-biting turns, and a climax that will blow your mind. It is not at all surprising that this exposé bagged the Oscar for Best Documentary feature in 2018. Totally deserved, we would say, and you will agree with us once you watch it.
Icarus is currently streaming on Netflix.