VOD film review: Eddie the Eagle
Craig Skinner | On 05, Aug 2016
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman
Watch Eddie the Eagle online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.” That quote appears twice in Eddie the Eagle, Dexter Fletcher’s heartwarming new film that chronicles the attempts of Eddie Edwards (Egerton) to become an Olympian. It’s attributed to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, and epitomises everything about Eddie’s unlikely story and Fletcher’s almost dizzyingly upbeat film.
A great many people are turned off sport at a young age and continue to be throughout their lives, because of a propensity for many to focus on winning as the primary goal. That conquering rivals is the ultimate aim of taking part. But Eddie the Eagle begins with a young Eddie failing and despite everything that he achieves, this is not a story about someone being ‘the best’ by traditional sporting standards. He has no real natural sporting ability and, for a significant period of his life, he is also physically disabled, but he dreams of going to the Olympic games.
Eddie the Eagle plays fast and loose with a lot of the facts in order to make the story work better on screen: Eddie manages to get past these roadblocks and work his way onto a team that could see him going to the Winter Olympics in Calgary in 1988. The British Olympic committee are his next hurdle, though, here represented as an entrenched upper class organisation that aren’t too interested in Eddie, who comes from a working class background and doesn’t look like he’s going to win, which they believe will “show them up”.
This is, of course, an underdog story about someone overcoming adversity, and, as Eddie rises to fame and a place at the 1988 Winter Olympics, he gets to show that these obstacles are nothing to worry about if you have commitment and a belief in yourself. Eddie the Eagle is an uncynical sports movie about someone doing their best. And it’s heartwarming and uplifting in a way that is utterly disarming.
Fletcher achieves this not by detaching from the cliches of the genre he’s working in, but by leaning into them. And he, and everyone else involved, leans in hard.
The performances are broad, the colours bold and bright, the montages unironic and the soundtrack is so synth-heavy and uplifting it feels at times like a cross between the soundtrack to an 80s skiing game and Gonna Fly Now. But this is all very much part of an incredibly assured and consistent tone that works effectively to wrap you up in this world and invest you heavily in Eddie’s story.
And also that of Eddie’s mentor, Bronson, a composite trainer character and ex-ski jumper, played by Hugh Jackman in a way that perhaps only Jackman could get away with. Poured into a pair of tight jeans and with a hip flask permanently squeezed into his back pocket, he’s a cowboy/rock star on his way to redemption, thanks to the impossibly optimistic attitude Eddie spreads everywhere he goes. One particular moment in which Bronson proves that he can still jump is one of the most ludicrously cheesy and absurd sequences you’ll see in quite some time, but again, within a film that is embracing a particularly broad and unabashedly bright tone, it makes you break into a wide smile rather than cringe into your chair.
There are times when Fletcher perhaps pushes things a little too far – some of the needle drops are a step over the line and a scene in which Jackman fakes an orgasm is disastrously misjudged, but for every minor stumble there are a great many smart decisions. A late scene, for instance, in which a character talks about the importance of Eddie doing his best could be a hackneyed piece of over-explaining if handled differently, but screenwriter Sean Macaulay uses an incredibly neat metaphor to deliver the point in an unsubtle but unforced manner. It’s also positioned perfectly to set us up for the film’s touching climax.
Eddie the Eagle is the kind of film that you succumb to. An infectious movie that does a great deal to model itself after its titular hero, Eddie the Eagle is an anthem to doing your best and not worrying about those who may ridicule you for trying.