Synopsis – The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
My Take – Movies based on an underdog story especially when you throw in a sport (to wrap it up) are generally liked by everyone. Some years back, such kind of movies were the one who received the most appreciation, but now days thats not the case. Honestly, maybe because it seems this film is no different from the biopics which have come out before takes the similiar subject matter in the same way as it has always been done, but what makes this film based on the true story of British skier Michael Edwards (who in 1988 became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping), special is that it reminds us again about having dreams. We all have had our own dreams, which seems like an odd thing now based on the current world situation, or people just told you it wasn’t realistic or refused to support you when you needed them to (or both). Or maybe you chose to give up on that dream because you decided yourself that it wasn’t practical or because you came to believe that you were too old, too busy, too poor, too etc “whatever” to dream anymore. This film takes us down a fictionalized lane of under achiever who despite all odds fulfilled his. The story follows Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), a young British man who, from a very tender age, aspired to become an Olympian, despite his parents’ lack of money and his father’s modest expectations for his son to become a plasterer like himself. Eddie’s determination always found a way to either get him hurt or in trouble, but he never cared to stop, not even after his tenth pair of glasses or the increasing number of bruises on his body. Eddie’s incorruptible determination is predicated upon one end goal; proving people wrong by earning a spot in the ski-jumping competition in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
Eddie’s quirky attitude, lack of coordination, and leg braces make him the perfect underdog candidate, and with little guidance, plus a late start in the sport compared to his competitors, he enlists in the help of Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a once-promising ski-jumper has turned into bitter, pompous alcoholic. Peary agrees to help coach Eddie in landing, so he doesn’t make a complete fool out of himself around the more seasoned jumpers. It doesn’t take long for Eddie’s promise to be communicated to Peary in the boldest way. Through all his quirks and eccentricities, Eddie is a lot of things, but not a quitter, even when Olympic officials laugh in his face, competitors sneer and mock him, and even Peary himself demeans him. Almost everything Eddie says to people results in a jab back in his direction, and instead of fighting back, let alone instigating or being bitter, Eddie persists on towards his goal. “I love jumping,” he states at one press conference, “nearly as much as I love proving people wrong.” And if Eddie manages to overcome his alcoholic coach’s gruffness – and his own lack of experience (talent) as a jumper, he still must get past the British Olympic Committee whose leader (Tim McInnerny) is intent on stopping Eddie. The film sounds like your run of the mill sport biography & which it basically is but it’s also self aware of that fact and has fun with itself and with a run time of 106 minutes, it manages to make us laugh, cry and smile. This is not just your regular feel good sports film about a underdog, its pitches itself as being more nuanced than that, even as we know the films end result. The film has a huge relatable factor that works in its favor, the film is about a common man who dreamed, and as a viewer I was easily able to put myself in the main protagonists shoes. The film also evokes all the right emotions at the most opportune time, and this is because of the solid screenplay and script. Scenes such as Eddie carries with him a lunchbox filled with all the medals he’s won throughout the years. Most of those medals consist of broken, thick-framed glasses with insanely thick lenses. Those who scoff at the state of sport today and make a stink about how competition is being scuttled by participation trophies are missing the point. Sportsmanship is not about beating the other guy, it’s about achieving your personal best. This movie wears that theme firmly on its sleeve and it’s truly a joy to see something that doesn’t resort to self-reference to get it’s point across.
Plus it is paced perfectly, and there is never even close to a boring sequence in the film. The 80s Europe milieu is captured well in the film, because of great production values (in the sense of the 80s clothing, cars etc). Director Dexter Fletcher surprised me by how well he filmed the ski jump sequences. Whether it was through the eyes of Edwards himself (going down an in-run) or having the camera stuck right up in his face (in the middle of said in-run), the technique is quite impressive. Of course without a good cast this film would not have worked. Taron Egerton (Kingsman) is proving his worth as an actor, managing to be the perfect athlete and dweeb in one crazy experiment. You know his character is out of their element, but Taron Egerton gives a sensitive performance of an instantly likable character who has been doubted before he was ever given a chance to prove himself, and through a tender lens, director Dexter Fletcher and company prove that is something that we all want; to be taken seriously and to be, at the very least, respected. By giving us a character who is treated with everything but respect for most of his life, we’re reminded that most of us simply want a shot at glory before we can be criticized. Hugh Jackman does well as his coach, more or less throwing in a lot of his charm and ability to play off the comedic writing to his advantage. He starts off as a wild drunk, but by the end of the film he pitches in a mature restraint act. Hugh gains cool points for his shot of ski jumping with a cigarette in his mouth. The roles of Eddie’s parents are also well played, and the actress playing his mother, Jo Hartley, gives a particularly poignant portrayal. The father, played by Keith Allen is a bit of a caricature, but well acted. Actually, a lot of the supporting cast of characters are caricatures, especially the other ski-jumpers/coaches and the British Olympians/Olympic Committee. But to an extent that serves to emphasize the struggle for Eddie. Also, for those intent on seeing this film for Christopher Walken, he has a very small role. On the whole, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ is a predictable yet very a entertaining film due to its committed cast and the respectful treatment of its subject. Give it a shot!
Director – Dexter Fletcher
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 106 minutes