Almost impossible to flat out dislike due to ti’s unabashed 80’s motif, Eddie the Eagle might not soar above the pantheon of underdog sports films, but works as a charming, inoffensive addition to the very long list of fun sports movies. Bursting onto the the screen with a synth heavy score, fully equipped with daring stunts, a Hall & Oats training montage, vibrant blue suits and questionable facial hair, Eddie the Eagle isn’t just a film set in the 80’s but one that feels it was filmed then too.
Telling the true story about Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards (Taron Egerton), a determined if not naturally talented British ski jumper who made it his life mission to compete at the Olympics. It is a underdog story in the truest sense about an athlete who doesn’t strive to come in first, or even second or third, but who simply wants to get the chance to compete for his country. However, in order to succeed Eddie is going to need a trainer, which is where Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) comes in, a retired Olympic ski jumper who now is an alcoholic, picking up the slopes for the newest athletes. It’s the scenes between these two where the story finds it’s heart and best storytelling tactics.
Dexter Fletcher’s direction of the film leaves everything to be desired and is aspect of the film that’s the biggest hindrance of the overall quality. The campy and sun bleached aesthetic works well-it is about competitive ski jumping after all-but the camera work is haphazard, leaping from one questionable choice to the next, stealing tricks and tones of other filmmakers without any of the finesse. An early sequence of Jackman’s Bronson performing a jump has the quick, glossy cuts of an Edgar Wright film but looks cartoonish where Wright’s films utilize the gloss to elevate the action. There’s also unfortunately the inescapable fact that there’s only so many times you can shoot a ski slope before it loses it’s spark and that’s still 50% of what the film is. It could have bettered itself by further developing Eddie and Bronson’s dynamic which had the lucky assist of Egerton and Jackman’s effortless chemistry. Instead, again and again, we get the sweeping birds eye view of the mountain and German countryside and the slow, drawn out shots of the daunting ski slopes.
It should be said though that the two actors give reliably strong performances with Egerton providing a performance that sells the good hearted nature of the character-he’s incredibly likable in the role and even when success seems unfathomable we’re rooting for him. Jackman is equally as charming and the pair are wonderful together, the aforementioned training montage being the clear highlight.
The film is very presented with a very heavy hand, with moments from Eddie’s childhood echoed later in the film when he goes off to achieve his big dreams and his story being abrasively about conquering one’s goals no matter who or what is saying they are impossible. All of it is very broad from the humor to the shifts in tone to the oddly paced third act. Beyond the performances the highlights include the upbeat, 80’s inspired music by Matthew Margeson along with the cheerful and vibrant cinematography by George Richmond.
The biggest sell however, beyond the stronger technical elements which help gloss over the sloppier, screenwriting, is the almost old fashioned “feel good” nature of the film. Eddie’s drive and absolute resolve is incredibly winsome, and it’s hard not to be swept up in his story, similarly to the trainers and friends he meets at the resort. So often we see underdog narratives where the main objective is winning and that is the end all, be all for the character, the ultimate goal worth fighting for so it’s refreshing to see Eddie aim for goals less involved with the limelight, making his notoriety all the most satisfying to behold. It’s ultimately a positive message about how sometimes it’s not the medal that matters or being defined as the very best but the journey to that goal and even more so, even the chance to be involved in the first place. This is a film for sports lovers because it’s so fully dedicated to the love of skiing and ski jumping and the spectacle of the Olympics. Eddie is a character who’s greatest triumph is defying expectations and it’s a marvelous thread to watch play out.
Warm without breaking any new genre standards Eddie the Eagle succeeds on it’s simpler aspects, it’s relationship building and emotional payoff.