Movie Review – Eddie the Eagle (2016)

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Stars: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman

Based on a true story, Eddie the Eagle depicts the journey that Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards (Egerton) went through as he tried to achieve his childhood dream of being an Olympian. Facing challenges from the British Olympic Committee and his would-be peers, he eventually convinces washed-out ex-ski jumper Bronson Peary (Jackman) to become his coach, and together they forge a path to the Winter Olympics in Calgary.

First of all it’s important to note the ‘based on’. Much like The Danish Girl this takes extreme liberties with the background of its subject matter, even to the extent of creating Hugh Jackman’s character from nothing, which is quite egregious. But Mr. Edwards himself has come out and said that although the facts are inaccurate, the spirit and essence of the film are correct. The grace with which he approaches this adaptation of his life is symbolic of the film itself, and one that transcends mere facts. I’m 30 so I’m not old enough to remember Eddie the Eagle when he flew, only mentions of him as I was growing up and unfortunately he’s become somewhat synonymous with heroic failure and played for laughs, a punchline to a joke that everyone seems to be in on.

This film corrects that myth and although it is inaccurate and probably exaggerates the extent to which he was opposed by various people (according to what I’ve read his father was in fact supportive, rather than the grumbling figure depicted in the film) it does encapsulate the Olympic spirit, which is that performing to your best is the most important thing. It’s a phrase that has often become trite and patronising, almost a way to soften the blow of defeat, but through this film we are reminded that overcoming one’s own shortcomings is a triumph in and of itself, and in a pointed conversation towards the end of the film we are reminded that it is through heart and attitude that we become champions.

In an age where much of our pop culture has had a cynical edge Eddie the Eagle is an antidote to the gritty, brooding attitude that pervades much of our entertainment. It’s heartwarming without being saccharine, uplifting without devolving into empty sentiment. Egerton is quickly forging a reputation for himself and should be commended for his work here. Jackman gives a standard Jackman performance, but I liked the way their two characters complemented each other. The direction was good, capturing the majesty and unnerving danger of ski jumping almost as well as The Walk captured the dizzying heights of tightrope walking.

It’s simply a film that reminds you that things are possible, that if you work hard enough you may not be the best in the world, but that’s not the only thing that matters. For a long time Eddie the Eagle has been identified with failure, but he should be championed for his success because he achieved his dream and became an Olympian. We can all learn something from his example, and for that reason I give this film my highest recommendation. Absolutely loved it.

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