Film Review: Eddie the Eagle

Eddie the Eagle is showing at Plymouth Arts Centre cinema from 29 Apr – 05 May 2016. 

Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards (Taron Egerton) is every parent’s nightmare: he has aspirations far beyond his abilities. As a child he is fascinated by the Olympic Games, and he tries out different sports using any materials to hand – from weightlifting using pots of paint hanging on either end of a yard brush to improvised hurdles – with equally disastrous consequences.

As a teenager, he changes his ambitions to the Winter Games and becomes skilled at skiing but his hopes are dashed by the stuffy British Olympic Association officials who do not pick him for the team. This leads him on his personal quest to become a ski jumper, as Britain doesn’t have a team for that sport and the rules to enter it haven’t changed for decades.

There is a great British tradition of underdog films from World War Two heroes who go against tremendous odds to beat or outwit the enemy, to the likes of Chariots of Fire, Kes, Educating Rita, The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Calendar Girls to Billy Elliot that feature individuals or groups who transcend all obstacles to realise their dreams. Most of all Eddie the Eagle is like a British version of Cool Runnings, which is a comic take on the tribulations that befell the Jamaican bobsleigh team who competed at the 1988 Winter Olympics, in Calgary, Canada. This is the same event where Eddie competes for Britain, and the film neatly includes a BBC TV commentator (Jim Broadbent) who mentions them and coins the term Eddie ‘The Eagle’.

Like Cool Runnings, Eddie the Eagle has a disgraced American act as a coach for him. Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) originally mocks Eddie’s ambition to be a ski jumper but he soon realises that Eddie is not going to give up his dream. Their relationship creates a number of humorous scenes involving rather unusual training techniques. Not surprisingly, the well organised Norwegian team are disdainful of Eddie, as are the British teams at Calgary who think he is a joke.

Eddie is impervious to the criticisms, and is deaf to the pleading from his Dad (Keith Allen) that he should set his sights on a proper job. Aided by his Mother (Jo Hartley), he blithely drives off in his Dad’s clapped out van with his parent’s savings to achieve his dream.

You can’t help but admire Eddie’s sheer determination, especially since the film shows how high and dangerous these ski jumps are! It’s enough to give you vertigo looking down the ‘nursery’ 40m slope, and as for the 70 and 90m slopes they are literally lethal.

It is loosely based on facts but that doesn’t matter, all-in-all this is a feel-good film that takes you on a thrilling and hilarious ride over the highs and lows of the early career of this legendary British sporting ‘hero’ who embodied the spirit if not the achievements of the Olympic ideal.

Nigel Watson

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