The 1988 Winter Olympics will forever remain etched in history as perhaps the most memorable Olympics ever, thanks to the incredible feats of two first-timers. The first of these was made into the charming Cool Runnings, charting the daring debut of the Jamaican bobsled team. The second has only just jumped onto the big screen – but he is well worth the wait. The heroic failure of Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards only get more inspiring with age.
Having pursued Olympic glory from a young age, and failed at every sport he participated in, Eddie realised his best shot was at ski jumping – a sport the UK had not participated in for 60 years. After traveling to a German training facility where expert jumpers belittle him, restrictions imposed on him by the British Olympic Team and a partner who is a drunken snow groomer, Eddie defeats all expectations to make unexpected history.
In what is, essentially, an overused underdog story, Eddie the Eagle delivers on its feel-good premise. The structure is pretty simple: four stages of ever-growing altitude. With each stage comes increased challenge and emotion, and as a result, we become personally attached to Eddie’s perilous journey, sucked into the heart of his story by his unwavering spirit.
This could easily have been a sentimental affair. Many filmmakers would simply take Eddie’s childhood and pinpoint a precise psychological moment that spurred his undying spirit. But in this film, all Eddie really wants to do is compete at the Olympics, which makes for quite the upbeat narrative. This is what gives the film its electrifying climax, and because we know about Eddie’s valiant failures, it’s a satisfying outcome. Taron Egerton is a charming lead as Eddie Edwards, perfectly capturing his look, smirk and spirit.
Nevertheless, some liberties have been taken. The fantastically confident Hugh Jackman portrays Bronson Peary – a disgraced ski jumper, who’s really just an amalgamation of all the trainers Eddie ever had. From his intriguing history, to his adverse attitude – even his orgasm face – the character is a great fictional friend for Eddie. Eddie the Eagle chooses not to merge its protagonist’s story with sentimentality and ends on all-out on a high!
If the spirit of the story wasn’t enough, the electrifying visuals provide further immersion. The choice of angles perfectly captures the death-defying jumps, not to mention how terrifyingly stomach-churning the sport can be. Ski jumping isn’t the type of sport normally associated with film-material, but by the look of Eddie the Eagle, it has the excitement, the horror, the mystery, the thrill and the gravitas to boot.
More than anything, what Eddie the Eagle shows is that in this age of repetition, cliché can be good. But one must not forget that the film’s luck is pre-determined – Eddie’s antics were made for entertainment. He was an uncanny individual whose life was always destined for cinema, but who knew the outcome would be so gleefully splendid!
Anchored by its two charismatic leads, a death-defying sport and a magnificent story, Eddie the Eagle makes the most of its inspirational sentimentality with a sweet, upbeat underdog adventure.
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Images sourced from ‘Eddie the Eagle’, 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate