“Icarus” is a documentary directed by filmmaker Bryan Fogel, who sets out to find the truth about doping in professional sports. Along his journey, he becomes acquainted with Grigory Rodchenkov, who is the head of the anti-doping agency in Russia. Fogel is extremely passionate about cycling, so he and Rodchenkov set up a program of steroids to take to see if his performance improves.
Not only does this documentary prove that steroids do in fact give an individual an athletic advantage, it shows that the drug tests given to athletes are not always correct. In fact, Rodchenkov’s role in Russia’s anti-doping agency did just the opposite. Responsible for covering up failed drug tests for Russian athletes, Rodchenkov seemed to be a good guy in a terrible situation. Unfortunately for him, Vladimir Putin had his eyes on Rodchenkov’s every move. There was no doubt that Rodchenkov is a brilliant man, but he was responsible for the biggest cover-up doping scandal in the history of professional sports.
As the documentary goes on and the events become more thrilling, Fogel flies Rodchenkov to meet him in Los Angeles. Upon his arrival, we begin to see the focus switch from the program that he made for Fogel to enhance his performance, to Fogel making sure that Rodchenkov stays safe. It is evident that Rodchenkov was a powerful voice who could single handedly expose the Russian government’s untruthful drug testing and get them into some serious trouble. A very corrupt country that has a dark past, Russia shows its true colors once more.
The man who worked closely with Rodchenkov, Nikita Kamaev, was pronounced dead as speculation began to grow. When Rodchenkov got wind of the news, he wasn’t surprised that he was dead, but he did not believe that it was a heart attack that killed him. Rodchenkov knew that Kamaev was in good health and believes that Russians in the KGB killed him before he leaked any information. Now scared for his life, Rodchenkov knew that he could not go back to Russia.
Rodchenkov goes on to provide the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) with critical information that proves Russia in fact did cheat at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, fairly easily too. The information that Rodchenkov leaked was so crucial that he is now in protective custody in the United States, as it is feared that he would be murdered in Russia. This documentary was extraordinarily eye-opening about just how much power the government has in Russia, but how it is also important to always tell the truth and do the right thing.
It is hard to root for Rodchenkov as he made cheating possible for many years in international competition, but at the same time- his life depended on it. A lot of people talking about the documentary said that he didn’t do the right thing and should be sent back to Russia to deal with the consequences, but I don’t believe that’s fair. Despite lying for many years and cheating the rules, Rodchenkov had Putin monitoring his every move. Fogel did a great job of showing the two sides that Grigory Rodchenkov represented, both good and evil, and created a suspenseful story out of a very real and serious topic.
This documentary won an Academy Award and received relatively strong reviews from the top critic websites. Brian Tellerico of RogerEbert.com said Icarus was a “crackling documentary.” On Rotten Tomatoes, “Icarus” got a 93% approval rating based on 41 reviews and called it an “eye-opening viewing for professional sports enthusiasts, yet it should also prove thoroughly gripping even for filmgoers who might not necessarily be drawn to the subject.” Overall, I would recommend this documentary to anyone who is willing to learn about a very interesting discussion, who will certainly be entertained along the way.