Eddie the Eagle (PG) | Close-Up Film Review
Dir. Dexter Fletcher, UK, 2016, 95 mins
Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman
With an unwavering ambition to compete in the Olympics – any category will do – Michael Edward’s (Taron Egerton) obsession plays a big part in his formative years, even if he appears to lack the finesse of a professional sportsman. This is the cause of much frustration for Eddie’s parents, particularly his dad, Terry (Keith Allen), who is eager for his son to take on a ‘proper trade’ like bricklaying.
After a disappointing outcome in his trials for the 1984 British Olympic Skiing team, Eddie turns his attention to Ski-Jumping, hoping to represent Britain in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, which is no mean feat when such a team is yet to even exist. Pairing up with an unwitting alcoholic coach, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), Eddie invests all of his heart and energy in to making his dreams a reality, despite advice from his peers and parents that he will never make it as a professional athlete.
Everyone loves routing for an underdog – the more charismatic and down to earth they are the better – and as Eddie the Eagle spends a dangerous amount of time plummeting down to earth, the audience is sure to warm to Taron Egerton’s portrayal of this dedicated and determined sportsman. Jackman’s role as the reluctant mentor is far less demanding than Egerton’s transformation into Eddie, but he adds gravitas to Peary’s struggle to overcome his own personal failures through the cathartic process of coaching Eddie to success.
A huge part of the film’s success lies in its main star Taron Egerton and his brilliant performance as Eddie the Eagle. When you see actual footage of Michael Edwards during the film’s closing credits you will realise just how effortlessly Egerton has captured the spirit and charisma of his unique personality. Not only has Egerton provided a fitting tribute to an inadvertent sporting legend but he has proven that he is a talented and versatile actor who we are likely to be seeing a lot more from in the future.
Although screenwriters Sean Mcauley and Simon Kelton take a lot of liberties with the story of Michael Edwards – who has himself admitted in interviews that the film is only about 10% accurate – they do so in such a way that feels natural to the progression of Eddie’s character, providing more depth and excitement to what otherwise could have been a relatively flat story. Many sporting clichés make their way into the film (expect montages set to 80s rock music) although they are handled with such flair and vigour that their inclusion is more likely to prompt knowing smiles from the audience as opposed to rolling eyes.
If rousing, British, feel-good films are your thing, then Eddie the Eagle should not be missed as its charming insight into the world of Olympic Ski-Jumping is sure to inspire and delight in equal measures. Whilst it follows the tried and tested formula of most underdog sports films, director Dexter Fletcher handles his third film with such enthusiasm for the subject that you can easily overlook its shortcomings and jump straight in for a fun ride.
Review by Tom Bielby