Eddie the Eagle
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 24th April 2016
The story behind Eddie the Eagle has the ring of a Boy’s Own Adventure story meets Upworthy motivational video – a not particularly appealing proposition for those who don’t have an abiding memory of the real-life English lad whose extraordinary self-belief saw him fly all the way to the Winter Olympics of 1988.
But if you put your cynicism aside, Eddie the Eagle is in fact enjoyable and moving in equal measure. Remarkably, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels’ Dexter Fletcher (an actor-turned-director) has pulled together a brilliantly-paced, entertaining and surprisingly gripping tribute to the challenged young man whose story ought to send every viewer out of the cinema believing in miracles.
Michael “Eddie” Edwards is a little boy obsessed with becoming an Olympic skier despite sporting a leg brace and no apparent aptitude for athletics. He’s blessed with a supportive mum, but his dad can’t believe in this nonsense: “It’s a world that doesn’t want ya,” he growls, not entirely unkindly. However, Eddie isn’t having a bar of it, and by age 18 he is winging his way to Switzerland to ingratiate himself with the top European ski jumping teams. Naïve but tenacious, he finds a coach who also doesn’t believe in him, and starts to train hard. And boy, does his perseverance pay off.
The real Eddie the Eagle was a legend in 1980s Britain, and if you didn’t know that you would think his caricature, as played by Kingsman’s Taron Egerton, is either desperately cruel or just evidence of terrible acting. However, the constant gurning and peculiarly scrunched-up face is apparently part of Eddie’s tick, and with this criticism put to rest, it’s easier to lose yourself in the wild ride of a ridiculous but exhilarating true story. Even Hugh Jackman in support as the (fictional) alcoholic, washed-up coach cannot rain on Eddie’s parade as he attempts breath-taking jumps that no sane man would countenance, which we experience from his point-of-view.
The fabulous period costuming and hairstyling is rendered with a light but sincere heart, and spot-on 1980s synth (alluding to Chariots of Fire motifs) lifts the film’s tone from somewhat clumsy to inescapably endearing. The result is a family-friendly movie with a terrific moral.