3 out of 5 stars
Every Olympic games contains great stories of athletic prowess and human achievement, but many of the best athletic accounts that endure throughout history are of those who go up against all of the odds to merely get a chance to compete in the games. For those who can remember the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, there were two big stories that came out of that year and interestingly they did not include Olympic medallists. One was the Jamaican bobsledding team and the other was the story of a British ski-jumper named Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards (Taron Egerton).
Eddie the Eagle is the biographical sketch of the consummate underdog ski-jumper who desired nothing more than to compete in the Olympics. After trying various means of getting into the games, he finally finds a way to represent his England at the Winter Games. He wants to become the first English ski-jumper since 1927. In achieving this goal, Eddie flounders around trying to develop his skills until he happens upon the down-on-his-luck former ski jump champion, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). This former champion will help him to reach his dream of making the 1988 Olympic British squad. His experience in preparing for the Olympics and his time at the winter games has become the makings of urban folklore that still captures the imagination of fans almost 30 years later.
These underdog stories are what make the Olympics great and provide Hollywood with a multitude of plot lines. The challenge for director Dexter Fletcher is the attempt to make ski-jumping an exciting cinematic experience. He manages this feat by taking the viewer back to the 80s with the costuming, hairstyles, music and storytelling style. Even his use of the synthesiser soundtrack is reminiscent to the Wide World of Sports documentaries of that era. Fletcher’s focus on this young man’s concentrated drive to achieve his dreams despite the opposition of most of the people in his life is a joy to experience. Taron Egerton delivers an inspiring performance that would cause even the most sceptical in the audience to cheer.
He shows the depth of Eddie’s character with humour and heart. His interpretation of the Olympian is strongly supported by Jackman who gives vulnerability and strength to the put-upon coach figure that helps to propel the story along. The acting performances and the direction push this underdog tale to its limits and meet a similar result as Eddie in hitting the mark.
The primary weakness of Eddie the Eagle is not found in his strong prescription glasses, the 1980’s fashion or the saccharine-sweet innocence of the lead character, but in the historical accuracy of the film. It has been close to 30 years since Eddie hit the slopes of Calgary. Most of his story has moved into the category of Olympic legend, which may allow for some the facts to be changed for the sake of artistic licence. Unfortunately in this Google era, it does not take too long to research Eddie’s story and realise that the majority of the script was fabricated and the primary accuracies are his name and the jumping events at the Olympics. This does not diminish the desire to cheer for the bottle-glassed ski-jumper, but it does tarnish the lustre of this inspiring tale.
Ultimately, it is an encouraging journey back to the 80s with good performances from the lead actors. Audiences should leave the theatre cheering and celebrating the human spirit. Despite some adult references to Bo Derek, Eddie the Eagle is an uplifting telling of a man striving to achieve his dreams that most of the family can enjoy.
Reel Dialogue: Chase your dreams
Stories like Eddie the Eagle reach in and grab people’s hearts, because deep in our spirit we all want to do something extraordinary with our lives. Yet, most of us will never have our lives become the focus of books, articles or movies. Does that mean that our lives mean any less to the world than that of Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards? Not according to the Bible, in Psalm 139 it states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God which moves our lives from ordinary to extraordinary. Not because of who we are, but because of who made us.
- What is the value of the human spirit? (Proverbs 20:27, Romans 8:16)
- Should we pursue our dreams? (Proverbs 16:3, Jeremiah 29:11)
- What should we do in difficult times? (John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7)