Synopsis: The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics. (From IMDb)
Review: Apparently the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary included a number of memorable characters. Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards became only the second British Ski Jumper in Olympic history. Jamaica sent a bob sled team to the games. They received their own movie, Cool Runnings, in 1993. Inspired by a true story, Eddie the Eagle tells the inspiring story of Michael “Eddie” Edwards. He spent his entire childhood dreaming about competing in the Olympics. Only one small problem kept him from succeeding in athletics, lack of ability. Growing up with bad knees, Eddie never excelled in school yard athletics. However, he possessed one thing that catapulted him into sport history: dedication. Eddie kept trying until he found a sport he could handle: ski jumping. Before 1988, the last British ski jumper competed in 1925. So Eddie’s competition for gaining a spot on the team was nil.
Now, no one can fault you if you have never heard of Eddie. While he competed in the Olympics, he did not medal. He was on the extreme outer edges of the sport, no one knew who he was until he showed up at Calgary. However, Eddie operated under the theory that the greatest accomplishments in life do not require a medal. All he wanted was a chance to compete in the Olympics and he earned his spot. The joy of competing far outweighs the fleeting rush of winning. Eddie captured the hearts of the 1988 Olympic watchers do to his unbreakable spirit and sheer joy of just being there. All other athletes paled in comparison to the extreme underdog story of Eddie the Eagle. His story literally soared over the competition.
Dexter Fletcher could have turned this into a farcical story and made Eddie a laughingstock. After all, Eddie was not a natural athlete and he stumbled quite a bit along his way to Olympic glory.Eddie, in the hands of a less reverential director, could become a joke. His coke-bottle glasses and childhood disability opens him up to mockery. However, Fletcher treats Eddie quite respectively and the narrative never makes him come across as a simpleton or fool. Instead, Eddie become the hero because he fought to achieve his dreams despite everyone telling him to quit.
Taron Egerton, a newcomer currently known for The Kingsman, is perfectly charming as Eddie. He never allows Eddie to fall into a caricature of eccentricities and keeps a glint of optimism in his eye despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Hopefully, Taron has a strong future in front of him. He possesses the ability to completely become his character. According to the real Eddie, about 95% of the story took extreme artistic liberties. But the main gist is still there. Perhaps the greatest fabrication is Hugh Jackman’s character Bronson Peary. In the name of streamlining, Peary represents all of Eddie’s real coaches rolled into one character.
Jackman provides the gruff foil to Eddie’s undiluted optimism. Peary, a onetime ski jumping champion, spends his time nursing beers and driving snow plows. Despite his gruffest rebukes, Eddie eventually convinces him to become his coach. Bronson relents because Eddie has something he never did: a willingness to try-anything, never give up attitude, and an undying passion for the sport. There is one great scene where Peary tackles the 90m jump while drunk. If Wolverine ranks as a 10 on a 1-10 gruffness scale, Peary ranks as a solid 7.5. Jackman excels at playing the hard as nails characters with a well-hidden soft spot. The on screen chemistry between Taron and Hugh is fantastic, they really play off each other quite well. I hope there are more collaborations between them in the future.
Stylistically, Fletcher has a grand time playing around with the classic aspects of a sports movie: training montages, bullying rivals who eventually respect their victim, and the underdog coming out on top. Eddie the Eagle will probably not win any big awards, but the film is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. You will leave the theater with a lighter heart and a renewed respect for tenacity of the human spirit. Also for the importance of maternal support. Eddie’s mom never gave up on him and pushed him to not give up. Go Mom. Dad eventually comes around and gives his son the approval he wants.
One quote said thought the movies comes from Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics. He said, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” The Olympics, originally, were meant to be an outlet for amateur athletes. Eddie the Eagle embodies this spirit. He desire to simply experience the thrill of competing and pushing himself beyond what anyone thought he was capable of achieving is an admirable trait. If nothing else, this movie embodies the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” If you are looking for an uplifting film, go see Eddie the Eagle.