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... See full summary »

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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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Documentary | Sport

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4 August 2017 (USA)  »

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Ikar  »

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The film was substantially edited after the premiere at Sundance Film Festival, where it was bought by Netflix. The new version debuted at Sundance London in June 2017 before being released on Netflix in August. See more »

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A deliciously brilliant sucker punch
7 August 2017 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Icarus starts naively enough, like most documentaries with a desire to learn something. A "what if" that could make a good story; perhaps an episode-long piece on "60 Minutes" or "20/20".

Bryan Fogel, who directed it, is like a man wanting to learn what is like to be a tiger and, in wanting to get closer to the truth, inadvertently locks himself in the tiger's cage.

Icarus is like two stories. The silly, and somewhat egotistical quest of Bryan Fogel to prove that doping is rampant and easy to get away with (duh!) while helping himself win the amateur race that has eluded him for years. It is difficult to find a way to sympathize for any person during this part of the story. Then Bryan meets a very amusing and very cynical Russian scientist named Grigory Rodchenkov, who is going to help him. They talk via Skype frequently, and even their dogs participate. We then go into the obligatory montage of training, preparation, and failures that seems all too familiar. That is, until something changes.

There is a marked and brilliant turning point in the movie when Grigory, a smiling and joking class clown up until that point, faces directly at the camera in a Skype conversation with Bryan and asks "have you seen a movie about me?" From that point on, the story's point of view changes from Bryan to Grigory and we learn something that we cannot unlearn, and realize that there is no going back. We learn that Grigory is the real protagonist and we are heading in a very dark and dangerous direction for Grigory, for Bryan, and for those around them.

One cannot blame those viewers who, prior to that point, were bored and wondered if this would be yet another expose on how privileged guys like Bryan were cheating the system for a moment of temporary glory and how doping had permeated into the weekend warriors scene. One cannot blame those viewers for walking away (I almost did), if they thought that's where we were going. I am sure that's where Bryan thought he was going too. That is, until the cage locked behind us...

What I call the second story in Icarus is based on terror; a terror of the light, not the dark, to borrow a line from Grigory. Real people get killed (allegedly) - this is a documentary, so death is very real. The ride is frantic, claustrophobic, and bitter-sweet. There is an ending but, then again, there isn't one. At the end of the story, we care deeply for Grigory, Bryan, and even Max the dog, and continue to wonder "what if".

Icarus is one of the most brilliant documentaries that I have ever seen.


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