Eddie the Eagle
As I crouch here in Brisbane in the remnants of Cyclone Debbie, wondering if I am going to become the first quad in history to be rescued by a swift-water team, I thought I would write a happy piece about a fun movie from last year. Just caught up with it on DVD. "Eddie the Eagle": greatly enjoyed it.
I am not a huge sports fan – with the exception of cricket; I wish they'd make epic movies about great cricket matches! Brisbane's famous "tied test" at the start of the 1960s is a runaway choice – but sometimes it's hard to beat a really good and dramatic sports movie. Think "Chariots of Fire", think "Cool Runnings". If you can tie in a visually dramatic sport with some great human-interest comedy, you're on a winner. "Eddie the Eagle" falls beautifully into this category.
The film is loosely – very, very loosely, if Internet gossip is to be believed – based on the true story of Michael Edwards, a British skier who decided he wanted to become an Olympic athlete, not necessarily to win anything, but for the honour and glory of saying "I was an Olympian!" Edwards had some background in skiing, but not ski jumping. He chose to try and crack the latter sport, mainly because there had been no champion British ski jumper since the 1920s, so he thought it would be easy to get on the British Winter Olympics team in that sport. He aimed for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.
Edwards is very nicely played by Welsh actor Taron Egerton, who I last saw in that bittersweet film of doomed youth, "Testament of Youth". He was good there, and he is good here too. "Testament" was a drama, "Eagle" is a comedy. Egerton is good at both. Edwards' initially reluctant coach, failed US skier Bronson Peary (who, it seems, is a fictional character) is played with a nice mix of weary resignation and growing enthusiasm for Edwards, by Aussie actor Hugh Jackman. He is very good too. In a welcome cameo (I haven't seen him in a movie in years), is veteran US actor Christopher Walken, who plays Warren Sharp, Bronson's estranged former mentor. In a delightful performance as Edwards' cheery and ever-supportive mum is Jo Hartley, who thinks he can do it even when his practical, down-to-earth plasterer dad urges Michael to get real and get a proper job.
This is basically one of those "individual sportsperson triumphing against the odds and all opposition and winning everyone's love" kind of movies. I suppose we've really seen it all before, but here, in the very capable hands of director Dexter Fletcher, the formula works. We cheer Edwards on even though we know he has no experience of ski jumping. We cheer him on when the stuffy British Olympic establishment try to fiddle the qualification rules to keep Edwards out of the UK team. We cheer him on when fellow Olympic competitors, including his own countrymen, treat him with scorn and derision. We especially cheer him on when he completes his Olympic ski jumps without coming a cropper. He doesn't win anything – he comes last in all his events – but his sheer enthusiasm and bonhomie at becoming a real Olympian (just not a very successful one!), endears him to us.
He becomes a media star, nicknamed "Eddie the Eagle" by his fans, loved by everyone, and we, the audience, say: "Good on you Eddie! So many so-called media stars don't deserve their fame, but you do. All power to you!" When he is welcomed back to England by admiring family and supporters, the mood of the moment is beautifully captured by his mum and dad who wear T-shirts proudly proclaiming "I am Eddie's mum/dad" respectively. A nice moment that makes you reach for the Kleenex box. If only we could all have the joyous, zestful approach to life shown by Eddy in this movie!
Cinematography is first-rate, with the ski jump sequences excitingly filmed on real ski jumps in Germany. The humour of the dialogue is gentle but very funny. Even the obstreperous British Olympic officials are not really evil, just laughingly misguided figures of pomposity. The editing is good and the film is, happily, slightly less than two hours in length. It looks like everyone in this film had a jolly good time making it. I had a jolly good time watching it. I think you will too.
My star rating, out of five: * * * * 1/4
Now then, back to designing my wheelchair-accessible survival raft …