Just when I thought the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics couldn’t get any better than Jamaican bobsledders, Eddie The Eagle comes along and spreads the legend of Britain’s ski-jumping wunderkind, Michael “Eddie” Edwards. “But Matt, how can movies about the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics get any better than Cool Runnings?” I hear you ask. Great question, person way too into bobsledding – but I promise it does.
Dexter Fletcher (you know, Pinky from Doom?) patriotically waves his British flag while bringing the story of Eddie Edwards to life, capturing the reckless determination that made a young boy’s dreams come true. This wide-eyed young jumper taught a nation what it meant to be alive, and redefined how we view success – lessons learned through bumps, bruises, and healthy mouthfuls of snow.
Taron Egerton plays the young Eddie Edwards, as we follow his journey to Olympic fame. His hopes of joining the downhill team are quickly squashed, however, when pompous decision-makers deem his quirky qualities not that of a champion, but Edwards will hear none of it. After discovering that Britain has no ski-jump team, he takes to Germany, where he plans to train until landing a qualifying jump that should seal an Olympic bid. But with no prior experience jumping, Eddie finds himself at a severe (and dangerous) disadvantage – until the facility’s American mountain groomer reveals himself to be a previous Olympian. Eddie convinces Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) to be his coach, after ample begging, and the duo begin their quest to Canada’s Winter Olympics.
Eddie is an odd fellow, and Egerton is asked to play a character who’s everything his breakout role, Kingsmen‘s Eggsy, is not. The high-spirited skier sports thick-rimmed glasses, bounces about with an awkward energy, and never quite had luck with the ladies, yet Egerton pulls his characterization off with ease. A certain skepticism hit me when the bumbling goofball first turned up, I must admit. Doubts led me to believe that Egerton wouldn’t be able to carry the charade through all 105 minutes, but here I am, proven horribly wrong. Egerton turns the twenty-something’s social ineptitude into a lovable charm, and creates a wonderfully cheer-worthy hero who dares to make us dream bigger. A star was already born in Kingsmen: Secret Service, so let’s say a star is reborn in Taron Egerton, who owns the slopes and the screen.
While this film is all about Eddie Edwards, a few supporting players make their presence known. Hugh Jackman, who plays Edwards’ hard-drinking, big-headed coach, does a splendid job mixing drunken advice with tender moments of genuine investment in Eddie’s betterment. He’s also the only man who can make ski-jumping look badass and sexy at the same time, in a ridiculous, yet righteous moment where he flies through the night in spandex-tight jeans. Leave it to the Australian to play a disgraced American, but Jackman compliments Egerton’s oddities with stone-cold chillness. He’s a man so cool that he calls alcohol his “jacket.”
Jo Hartley, who portrays Eddie’s mum, Janette, is an absolute delight, as she supports her son’s blind ambition without question. The familial relationship shared between the two is recognizably sappy, and a tad bit insane, but it’s charged with raw, lovely emotion, and engulfs you like a puffy winter coat. Eddie’s father’s constant nay-saying only makes Janette’s actions all the more sweet, as, dare I say, her motherly belief in Eddie choked me up a bit?
A host of other varying characters come in to either knock Eddie’s determination, or reaffirm his views on achievement. Edvin Endre, who plays World Champion Matti Nykänen, spouts some brief wisdom before Eddie takes on Calgary’s 90-meter behemoth, and explains, through a heavy Finnish accent, that medals don’t matter when you’re doing what you love (or something like that). This is the heart of Eddie The Eagle, as we’re reminded that accomplishments don’t have to be gold-medal victories when passion pushes you. In a world where we’re told “If you ain’t first, you’re last” (paraphrasing via Ricky Bobby), we need subtle reminders about how happiness can be achieved on smaller, more attainable levels that are reflected personally.
Fletcher’s style airs on the side of light-hearted buffoonery, as Eddie’s journey is more likely to plaster a grin on faces than compete with Unbroken. A constantly-rocking 80s soundtrack blares from synthy keytars, as Fletcher is able to include Van Halen’s “Jump” and NOT have us roll our eyes. The soundtrack, coupled with ski-bum stylings, makes for a thrilling usage of extreme sports, and more importantly, we feel the imposing presence of these tremendous ski-jumping platforms. Fletcher is able to capture some breathtaking views as Eddie looks down, contemplating his choices, and then a Speed Racer view kicks in, as the background flies by Eddie’s pastel-colored helmet. What a rush.
Moral of the story: I really enjoyed Eddie The Eagle. It’s a fun, lively story about taking charge of the life you desire, and embracing the struggle it takes to get there. Taron Egerton shines bright as Eddie Edwards, not to discredit Hugh Jackman’s hilarious machismo, but there’s so much more to Eddie than first impressions let on. Dexter Fletcher’s soaring accomplishment is the feel-good movie of the season, making audiences cheer for a British ski-jumper they probably never knew existed. This is heartfelt, empowering filmmaking, lifted by an enthusiastic embrace of the human spirit – now where’s my Eddie The Eagle/Cool Runnings crossover?!
Eddie The Eagle is a crowd-pleasing triumph about one of Britain's lesser-known Olympic heroes, and the dream he wouldn't let die.