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Thriller, Documentary
IMDB rating:
Bryan Fogel
Bryan Fogel as Himself
Nikita Kamaev as Himself (archive footage)
Storyline: When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold-exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.
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Amazing. Rarely write reviews, but best documentary I've seen in years.
I almost never write reviews for anything, but after seeing this movie and seeing a completely spiteful, misinformed review from another poster I feel obliged to post. This is an incredibly powerful documentary that had me at the edge of my seat for nearly the entire two hours. Honestly have no idea what movie the other poster was watching or if they're simply bitter or don't enjoy the documentary format, but I highly recommend this to anyone in an interest in sport, current world politics (US/Russia), or conspiracy. Both the director Bryan and protagonist Grigory are engaging and entertaining, and the movie will seriously leave you feeling like you just got a backstage pass to a very recent global conspiracy between Russia and the world.
Baggy and overlong, but nevertheless shocking documentary
Say what you will about Netflix, the multi-million dollar streaming service used the world over that has come under intense scrutiny in the past year for its debatable participation in the Cannes Film Festival, but its ability to fuel water-cooler chit-chat has done wonders for the documentary genre. The 10-part true crime series Making a Murderer became a phenomenon, proving so popular that it managed to cast doubts over the guilt of its subject and on the American justice system as a whole. The service's most recent conversation-starter is Icarus, directed by amateur cyclist Bryan Fogel, which started out like a Super Size Me expose on the world of doping but evolved into something else entirely. While it certainly has its flaws, it's an astonishing tale that would have been missed by most on a limited cinema run, but in the wide-reaching hands of Netflix, it has a chance to cause a stir.

Director Fogel's only previous directorial credit is 2012's little- seen Jewtopia, a gross-out comedy which does little to suggest he is a natural fit for a crusading documentary filmmaker. But, in the early stages of Icarus, he proves himself adept chronicling his journey from amateur cyclist to doped-up competition-winner. Hoping to replicate the process adopted by the likes of exposed drug cheat Lance Armstrong, Fogel spends much of the films first half-hour injecting testosterone and God-knows-what-else into his thighs and buttocks, and hitting the gym to prepare to win a gruelling seven- day cycle across France. He seeks guidance from Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of anti-doping in Russia, who seems to know every trick in the book on how to cheat the drug tests and avoid detection by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). Yet while his tests show a huge improvement on his physical prowess, he struggles to make any impact on the race, with a huge margin remaining between him and the top 10 racers. It seems his entire documentary is crumbling around him.

Then the news breaks of Russia's participation in a doping operation that dates back decades, and Rodchenkov starts to worry for his life. When his friend and colleague dies under mysterious circumstances, Rodchenkov flees to America to turn whistle-blower, and Fogel, having formed a close friendship with the charismatic, larger-than-life filmmaker's dream, gets the scoop. The director wisely relegates himself into the background as Rodchenkov's story and personality take over, and the film takes on the tone of a thriller. It's a story you have no doubt read about in the media, but Icarus boasts the opportunity to hear it directly from the horse's mouth, and Fogel is happy to let his subject talk. Having stumbled upon a goldmine, it's a wonder why Fogel chose to keep so much of his original narrative in the movie. While his lack of vanity in accepting his failure is admirable, it would have worked better with 15 minutes or so shaved off, and the film feels baggy and overlong as a result. Still, Icarus has the ability to shock, revealing that the scandal goes all the way to the very top, and may have been employed as a politic tactic by Putin to justify his invasion of Ukraine.
I thought this film was about Armstrong and how he cheated. This was the premise of the documentary. However, at one point it turned into a smear campaign against Russia and later against the head of IOC, Thomas Bach, who had refused to put a blanket ban on Russian athletes. We are treated to a large number of beautiful (and I am sure – costly) computer graphics, which independent directors cannot typically afford, and a selected readings from Orwell's 1984, while cleverly shown still photographs of Vladimir Putin.

It is all a disgrace and as a filmmaker and someone who loves and respects truth, this documentary really made me angry. Shame on its creators and the people paying them.
It tries to hard
I like this topic, in the last couples of years I read and watched some stuff about doping and I had hopes to get more and new information. This documentary leaves me with unsatisfied but also confused. First it's a super-szie-me-experiment which is strange, because we know drugs can enhance your performance. But it didn't work for our moviemaker. Then it's not the point of that story, because suddenly it's all about this Russian lab director Rodchenkov. And then again there is this huge conspiracy of state sponsored doping and it's all connected to Rodchenkov and Putin. On the one hand this show wants you to tell he is victim because the Russian state is evil, on the other hand he is a mastermind, well he was called mastermind and he didn't correct it. His role in planning and execution is not really clear. A lot of the interviews with Rodchenkov are simplified. This show is flashy and a lot of phrases you will hear can be used in a trailer. But there is not much of content, nothing you couldn't read in the newspapers. So there is no research in this work, just some public statements and footage by the moviemaker. This guy never worked as a investigative journalist, so you don't get deep digging. And this whole conspiracy is build around Rodchenkov. But what if he didn't tell the whole truth, history has shown some people will tell all kind of stories. And this guy working for decades for the purest evil suddenly turns away and is now the good guy. And it all started because some American moviemaker needed a doc and a lab to do some stupid stuff and then they become friends and together they uncover a dark conspiracy and all this in a time when the cold war is raising again and they fight each other on any field. This show leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions but gives you their view on who is evil and who is the good guy. Maybe this whole issue about state sponsored and individual doping is much more complex, but this show is just a starting point for you to go deeper and learn more about it.

Oh and then there is this cheesy part about George Orwell. Sometimes less is more.
Incoherent mess
This waste of time was one of the worst documentaries I've ever seen. It starts out to be about an amateur cyclist who decides to experiment on himself with doping. A half hour later it's about some Russian scientist and conspiracy, as if suddenly a different film has been inadvertently spliced on. The film is so ineptly executed it's impossible to make any sense out of it. A total failure.
A well-done exposé.
As many of the other reviews have mentioned, this is essentially two documentaries.

The first is an interesting, if a bit simplistic, depiction of doping in cycling and sport in general. It comes to the persuasive conclusion that doping is absolutely endemic in modern international competitions like the Olympics and the Tour de France and that no technological screening can be sophisticated enough to beat it. Bryan Fogel, the documentary's star and central driver, successfully dopes for an amateur cycling race, though the cheating doesn't seem to make a big difference in his performance.

The second part is the very personal story of a emigré Russian scientist and the massive fraud he successively administered and then revealed. It is intimate and exciting, even though most of us know the "end" of the story.

Though as Icarus reminds us, it isn't really over until someone crashes into the ocean.
Probably the best documentary i've watched
It has everything, spies, conspiracies, involvement of world leaders, following world events like wars. Seems like a movie or something that was scripted, its exciting, has suspense and drama and other traits that usually in documentaries its hard to truly get.

Amazing job and about a very passionate topic SPORTS .
Starts in one place and ends somewhere else completely, awesome!
Saw "Icarus" on Netflix, awesome shaggy dog of a documentary that starts off as a kind of "Supersize Me" movie about an amateur cyclist, Bryan Fogel (director, producer, obsessive/futile/driven amateur cyclist) who is interested in how performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) would effect his own performance but then it goes down the rabbit hole of general athletic doping specifically in regard to Russia's state sponsored program. (His own project is jettisoned about a third in) Essentially, the movie maker stumbles on the main players involved in Russia and the movie becomes both a wonderful piece of muck raking journalism as well as an actual political thriller where real people's lives are changed/threatened. The movie chronicles how the Russian World anti doping agency (WADA) office actually was responsible for enabling doping in Russian athletics, similar to Generals in Mexico responsible for fighting the drug cartels who were actually heading the cartels. The main character in the movie, Grigory Rodchenkov, is a garrulous, smart and morally complex person who is put at genuine risk by "turning states evidence" against the Russian program. One of his closest associates has a mysterious fatal heart attack. His superior is a close friend of Putin's, and is now something like Deputy prime minister, so this goes all the way up. There was a very careful description how doping controls were cannily circumvented at the Sochi Olympics (lots of James Bond level subterfuge). Further, no matter your position on doping in sports, I personally don't care what adults do, turns out WADA is pretty helpless/useless. A truly great movie, starts in one place - ends up going somewhere else completely.
When The Truth Has The Heaviest Consequences...The Grigory Rodchenkov Story.
This is a explosive expose that really started with amateur world-class biker Brian Fogel's exploration of personally doping himself with performance enhancing hormones for the world's premier amateur cycling event held annually in Europe. The word explosive is in no way hyperbole. Fogel's desire to test negative led him to Russian chemist Grrigory Rodchenkov. Fogel soon became immersed in how Rodchenkov, the head of the system the Russian State drug testing lab, might be able to help him be able to pass drug testing while doping. After an introduction was made by a reputable US scientist Fogel and Rodchenkov became partners of sorts.

Rumblings surrounding the rumor that somehow Russian athletes dope while testing negative became louder. A few cracks opened and Rodchenkov looked like a goner. He even became temporarily institutionalized for his well-being. After a Putin reprieve he was once more doing The Russian State's work, but things were different. He now knew his safety was in jeopardy. He was a pawn, a slave, and he could just as well be expendable should another situation arise. This time preservation of life was his top priority as he decided to come to The US hopefully acquiring asylum. It would explode into a situation in which a deal to testify would be his only chance of remaining in The US as some of his fellow Russian collaborators met mysterious deaths back in the mother country.

Suddenly Rodchenkov became the epicenter of the entire world's doping problem. You think Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong's cases, and troubles were big, Rodchenkovs were on a whole other scale as in life or death. This was one man accusing Russia of heinous crimes on a world stage and Vladimir Putin as the master criminal.. Because he could tie the various players in this illegal doping, right up to Putin, he had to give up everything and remain in The USA to insure his safety. His wife and child's passports were taken by the Russian government in attempts to rein the, now, criminal dissenter in. It's conceivable he may never see them again.

Icarus is a real-life high-stakes story of a man who dared to come clean about the work he was doing at the direction of the most powerful men behind a country that still believes The Olympics are their finest world showcase of superiority…that is outside of the unthinkable. You should give this a watch as it's as worthy a thriller as a Ludlum novel only the stakes are real. Brian Fogel may have never became a professional world class cyclist, but with this movie he makes a strong case that he is that league of documentary makers.
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