Eddie the Eagle
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Iris Berben, Jim Broadbent, and Christopher Walken
20th Century Fox
The 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary made a overnight superstar out of Michael “Eddie” Edwards, a British ski jumper well out of his league but undeterred in his efforts to become an Olympian. This underdog story is a familiar one, the odds are stacked high as usual and the obstacles come one right after another. However, unlike some other cinematic sports stories, Eddie’s success doesn’t come from his excellent athletic prowess but rather his determination to never giving up, in fact Eddie’s performance in the Winter Olympics was far from a display of excellence. That puts “Eddie the Eagle” in the category of sports films like “Rudy” or “Cool Runnings”, the later being another film inspired from real events at the 1988 Winter Games. The producing team behind last years pleasant surprise “Kingsman: The Secret Service” bring a satisfying charm peaked with feel-good moments to “Eddie the Eagle”.
Eddie (Taron Egerton) has always wanted to be an Olympian. From an early age, overcoming the obstacle of having leg braces, Eddie tried numerous sports looking for the one that would take him to the Olympics, his box of broken eyeglasses will tell you just how many times he tried and failed at a sport. Still, Eddie will not be swayed by anyone even his parents. Eddie’s father (Keith Allen) wants him to follow in the family business while his mother (Jo Hartley) is more understanding of his dream. Opportunity comes in the form of loophole, as Great Britain doesn’t have an Olympic ski jumper, making Eddie a default choice.
There are no surprises here, absolutely none. You’ve seen this kind of film many times, in many different forms. However, this doesn’t make the film any less charming. One of the main reasons for this quality is the choice of cast, specifically the two lead characters of Eddie and his coach Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). Taron Egerton gives a spot-on performance as Eddie partly because of the uncanny resemblance the actor has with the real character but also because Mr. Egerton embraces the defining motivation of Eddie, a mantra that proclaims that winning isn’t everything. Hugh Jackman composes the struggling Bronson Peary with variations of other tough yet sentimental characters he has played before; it fits and works quite well here. At first the mentoring character has a “Wolverine” type attitude, stiff drink and all. But slowly it turns into one of renewal, a second chance for a disgraced athlete to help someone reach the goal he never could. Mr. Jackman brings an enthusiastic and earnest quality to the character, while also building great chemistry with Mr. Egerton.
Things fall into place fairly quickly, familiarity taking over to an extent that the film doesn’t quite build towards the dramatic climax or maintain the suspense that it should. Throughout the film the lack of originality in telling this sports story stalls the film in a few moments. However, director Dexter Fletcher keeps pushing the easy-going attributes in a way that makes you wholly aware of what is coming but somehow keeps you engaged in the story if only to see if the writers decided to succumb to their structure and provide Eddie with the heroic Olympian ending. Again, nothing is new here.
“Eddie the Eagle” can be an uplifting film in moments, especially when Eddie is soaring through the air on course with either a bone shattering crash or landing with complete control. Who would have thought that a film filled with clichés, about a character who finishes in last place, would evoke cheers from an audience? Well, at the screening that I went to this film did. It proves that a great character can go along way.
3.50 out of 5.00