Icarus has a scale issue, as the subject material becomes much larger than the movie itself. Yet this is also what makes it so captivating.
The film takes a drastic shift from focusing on Bryan Fogel to focusing on Grigory Rodchenkov about 30 mins in, which leads to uneven pacing and unfinished storylines. We start by following Fogel who is attempting to dope for a bike race, almost all of his personal storylines are left unfinished, which is disappointing. Icarus is redeemed by the breathtaking story uncovered by the filmmakers of a Russian medical director(Rodchenkov) who designed a state-run doping program. Grigory Rodchenkov and Bryan Fogel work to help expose the secrets long held in the Russian anti-doping agency. Rodchenkov’s entire career in anti-doping is put under a microscope, not just by the filmmakers but at the time by the world. This attention on Rodchenkov makes the documentary feel more like a geopolitical thriller than a sports documentary. This political intrigue keeps the movie entertaining, as some more technical scenes tend to make the documentary drag a bit. My biggest gripe other than the biking storyline being left out to dry is that the middle of the movie just isn’t as interesting as the beginning or end causing me to become slightly disengaged. But thankfully the ending snapped me back to attention.
Even with its flaws as a film, Icarus is an occasionally thrilling and always informative dive into the world of sports doping. A must see for any serious sports fan interested in doping or anyone interested in the inner workings of the Russian Government.