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.
Unfortunately, my Oscar predictions were off this year re: documentaries. I chose the non-Netflix Faces Places for documentary feature but chose the Netflix option for documentary short, “Heroin(e)”. The actual results were flipped, Face Places lost to this film, Icarus, and “Heroin(e)” lost to “Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405”. As per usual, I didn’t actually see any of the nominees and I only have my viewing of Icarus to go off of.
Many of my favorite documentaries have an interesting premise, of the ilk of The King of Kong – something you never knew you might be curious about but is inherently interesting. Icarus handily checks that box – the premise starts out following filmmaker, and amateur bicyclist, Bryan Fogel on his quest to see the effects of doping and whether or not he can compete in the Haute Route, while doping, undetected.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Isn’t Icarus the film about the Russian Olypmics doping scandal?”, and yes, you are correct. Box number two that Icarus checks is the unexpected twist. Similar to the documentary mini-series The Jinx, while creating the documentary Bryan Fogel uncovered an even better story to tell. This is filled with twists and turns, so I won’t spoil them for you, only to say it is quite incredible to watch how this journey unfolds.
All of these unexpected developments do hurt the coherency of the film, with certain parts not fleshed out as well as they otherwise could be (mainly, the legal troubles that arise). You mostly overlook this seemingly piecemeal assembly because the pieces themselves are so intriguing, but it does hold Icarus back from perfection.
4 out of 5