Eddie The Eagle tells the story of 80’s Winter Olympic hopeful for Great Britain, Eddie Edwards. A character who some will remember from that era as being part media sensation and part laughing stock for his seemingly amateur participation in potentially one of the most deadly-serious sports events. Many people though, will likely wonder why anyone has bothered to bring a biopic of this character’s journey to the big screen. Give it a couple of hours of your time, and you’ll be so, so happy that they did.
During a brief introductory sequence, we’re taken through the childhood trials and tribulations of Eddie recovering from knee surgery and ‘training’ to become an Olympian. Following on from this and into young adulthood, Taaron Egerton (star of ‘Kingsmen: the Secret Service’) takes over in bringing our protagonist to life. His performance perfectly demonstrates a bumbling awkwardness balanced with a steel-core determination (with a pinch of blissful ignorance). Struggling against his own father’s (Keith Allen) efforts to make Eddie settle into a career as a plasterer, our protagonist soldiers on in his quest for his very own ‘moment’. Giving up on one path towards his dream only leads him to discover another route in the form of training to join the national team for the Winter Olympics as a skier. Racing, it seems, is not his thing either. At least not in the eyes of the dastardly pompous Dustin Target, head of the British Olympic Association. Undeterred still, Eddie discovers a gap in the proverbial market and so takes himself off to self-train as a ski jumper. It is from here that we encounter Bronson Peary (played by Hugh Jackman) who initially is simply a disparaging, and kind of drunken, piste caretaker. As luck would have it though, Bronson is from solid Olympian ski jumping stock, as a former high-flying member of the US team who fell from grace. Through his endearing dedication to succeed, Eddie manages to convince Bronson to coach him in his endeavours.
Win or lose, always aim high
There are highs and lows way beyond just the vertigo-inducing ski jumps and bone-crunching crash landings throughout this movie. At every turn, it seems Eddie faces another obstacle to overcome in pursuit of his dream. From disbelieving competitors, jobsworth competition officiators, newly created rules of the sport right through to his team-mates and even his nearest and dearest, The Eagle is undeterred throughout. Although occasionally, and heart-achingly for us viewers, he does become disheartened. This unexpected emotional core, combined with some great humour (both intentional and otherwise) keeps the audience fully engaged and really helps to get everyone on side with our protagonist. Again, Egerton’s delivery of much of the comedic content, particularly where it’s physical, really draws you in to supporting a most likeable zero-to-hero. He is brilliantly supported by Jackman throughout, as well as some star turns from Jim Broadbent and the legend that is Christopher Walken.
Some might find Eddie’s constant hurdle jumping a little formulaic and almost clichéd as a means of driving the plot forward (I’m not an expert on the guy’s life, but strongly suspect some artistic license has been taken with the details of his efforts to get where he wanted to be). However, allow yourself to become fully submerged in the immaculately stylised 80’s environment, and you’ll find yourself enjoying one of the best feel-good films around. Cinematography, sound and editing are all put to fantastic use to help viewers really experience the thrills and inevitable spills of many of the jumps. At one stage, I couldn’t quite believe how much my face was contorting alongside what I was witnessing on the screen.
All in all, this is an inspirational story of one man going for his dream against all odds. Not in the cheesy way that it sounds though. It’s done in an unassuming but punchy, delicate but powerful way that mirrors the daft but pure determined nature of The Eagle himself.
Reviewed by Darren Daly