Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
Ever since he was a boy, Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards (Egerton) dreamed of becoming an athlete, despite constant setbacks from all of those around him. He sets himself a goal of competing for Britain as a sky jumper in the 1988 Winter Olympics, with being able to just qualify and compete a seemingly impossible goal itself. With the reluctant coaching of an American former Olympic ski jumper (Jackman), the two of theme defy the odds and the establishment to qualify to compete at the Winter Olympics.
The film industry loves an underdog story to dramatize, and it is quite a surprise that it has taken it this long to bring the story of Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards to the big screen. From the off Eddie the Eagle nails its colours to the mast in the vein of Cool Runnings in that the key theme is that winning is not the most important thing, but defying setbacks to be even compete. From start to finish it is very much a textbook genre piece that never even threatens to pull any surprises and go off-piste from its formulaic and predictable narrative checklist (as well as a fair amount of creative license).
However I always frequently state that is not necessary the clichés that are the problem, but how they are presented, and from start to finish Eddie the Eagle unashamedly embraces its clichés. This approach means it emerges as a genuinely uplifting and enjoyable romp that makes sure that all who see it will leave the cinema in a better mood than when they entered. The script by Simon Macaulay and Simon Kelton achieves a great balance between comedy, seriousness and appropriate pacing. Eddie Edwards himself has been quoted as saying that the film captures the essence and emotion of what he experienced, as with all true stories there has be an element of poetic license, but is strengths like this that the film focusses on and does so with great aplomb.
One of the crucial factors as to why Eddie the Eagle works so well is that it gives us a character that we genuinely care about. Taron Egerton once again impresses as Eddie Edwards; he brings an infectious naivety and enthusiasm to the character that feels completely natural and therefore makes him impossible not to route for. One of the reasons he was cast in the role is apparently because he had an instant chemistry with Hugh Jackman, and that does truly show onscreen. Jackman’s character is actually total fiction, but he holds the story together and though again the relationship between the two characters follows a clear arc, the obvious chemistry between the two and the fact the film just gets most things right means that we want both to succeed and overcome their individual obstacles. It is admittedly not a role that proves a particular test for him, but Jackman is his usual charismatic self, fully justifying both the creation of his character and his casting.
Director Dexter Fletcher is of course already familiar with directing cinematic cheese after directing the undeniably enjoyable Proclaimers musical Sunshine on Leith (review) and once again shows undeniable ability behind the camera to not only judge the tone perfectly, but make the film feel genuinely cinematic. The shots of the high jumps feel cinematic and truly capture the frightening height of them, showing that to just have the guts to attempt them and be able to land safely is a very impressive feat in its own right and not something most of us could do. Meanwhile George Richmond’s cinematography is suitably colourful and Matthew Margeson’s score is wonderfully uplifting (almost Vangelis-esque at points) and is used along with some 80s classics very well indeed.
Of course the film pulls very little (if any) surprises at any point, and so this combined with the countless setbacks that the protagonist faces feeling a little forced at times does not make it a film for repeat viewings and it is also quite forgettable once finished. However, while onscreen there is no denying that it is a film that is a genuinely engaging and uplifting experience, and that is surely one of the fundamentals of cinema.
A true crowd pleaser that unashamedly embraces the fact it is a clichéd and generic genre piece. However thanks to two superb leading performances and a well-judged tone and pace, Eddie The Eagle is one of the most genuinely uplifting cinematic experiences of the year so far.