“At these Games, some competitors have won gold, some have broken records, and some of you have even soared like an eagle.” This is part of the speech given by the president of the Organizing Committee at the closing ceremony of the Calgary Winter Olympics of 1988. Millions of people around the globe recognised this acknowledgement of the exploits of the plasterer’s son from Cheltenham who charmed the world, not by winning, but by taking part…
This film is based on the life of Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards, who was a downhill skier. He narrowly missed out on selection for the Winter Olympics of 1984. It is then that he turned his attention to ski jumping in order to fulfil his dream of becoming an Olympian.
The film opens with the 10 year old Eddie unsuccessfully trying all sorts of Olympic sports using homemade equipment in his backyard. Despite the bumps, bruises and disapproval of his dad Terry (Keith Allen), Eddie maintains an infectious, boyish enthusiasm throughout his teenage years and into adulthood. Eddie is pressured to get a steady job with a regular income, so he tries to work with his dad as a plasterer, but he just cannot shake off his Olympic dream. After being snubbed by the British Olympic Association over selection for the downhill skiing team, Eddie sets off to Germany to try something else.
After a few ill-fated jumps on the training hill, Eddie (Taron Egerton) meets Bronson Preary (Hugh Jackman). Preary is an alcoholic who alternates his time between maintaining the jumping hills and restoring a sports car in his workshop. Eddie recognizes Preary as a former prodigy of the American ski jumping team and begs him to be his coach. Initially Preary refuses, but Eddie’s persistence pays off and this unlikely partnership begins.
The training sequences of the film are very funny as Preary puts Eddie through his paces. Without the resources of a national team, Preary has to build equipment out of wood and spare parts so that Eddie can lift, balance and jump his way to fitness. These scenes feel a lot like Stallone in Rocky, and I say this as a compliment. Like Rocky, Eddie the Eagle is a very well-made and highly engaging feel-good film.
Taron Egerton as Eddie breathes new life into a character that many would have forgotten after all these years. Egerton gives a performance of unrelenting energy and you can’t help but get swept along by Eddie’s unwavering commitment to succeed. Hugh Jackman as Preary is completely at ease in his role of anti-hero. Again he shows a great talent for comedy and portrays this disgraced champion with depth and poise.
Keith Allen is great as Eddie’s Dad and Jo Hartley is nothing short of wonderful as Eddie’s Mum, Janette. Hartley brings an extra dimension to this film through her portrayal of a loving mother who just wants her son to be happy. If you grazed your knee, you know she’d be there to put a plaster on it and kiss it better. Likewise, there would always be a consoling hug just when you needed it. The warmth and humour that she brings to the role permeates this well-scripted film.
The film is directed by Dexter Fletcher, who emerged as a major new directing talent with his BAFTA award-winning work on Wild Bill in 2011. Eddie the Eagle is at times a comedy, drama, biography, sports film, fantasy and musical. Despite this, Fletcher manages to produce a coherent piece of work which is well-paced and flows effortlessly towards a triumphant conclusion.
The sequences at the Olympics are convincingly done and there are some breathtaking shots of the Alpine landscape along the way. The nostalgic soundtrack was curated by Take That’s Gary Barlow and keeps us rooted firmly in the 80s. Among others, there are uplifting contributions from Howard Jones, Marc Almond, Midge Ure and Holly Johnson.
This is a funny and heartwarming film about a real-life have-a-go hero, who for a couple of weeks in February 1988 was the most famous man in the world.
I really enjoyed this film and I wouldn’t be surprised if it runs all summer.
Author – Simon, Norwich store