A film review by Craig J. Koban March 13, 2016


2016, PG-13, 105 mins.


Taron Egerton as Eddie Edwards  /  Hugh Jackman as Bronson Peary  /  Christopher Walken as Warren Sharp  /  Jo Hartley as Janette Edwards  /  Tim McInnerny as Target  /  Dexter Fletcher

Directed by Simon Kelton  /  Written by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton



EDDIE THE EAGLE is an awfully warm hearted and sweetly sentimental reality based inspirational sports drama that’s awfully hard to hate.  

Regrettably, it’s also a film that milks every single obligatory cliché and convention from its genre and never fully feels inclined to go creatively beyond its manipulative schmaltz.  As a tale of an athletic underdog attempting to attain some modicum of self-respect, EDDIE THE EAGLE is painted with endearing, but achingly broad strokes, so much so that you leave the theatre rarely thinking that a fully realized and multi-dimensional portrait of its subject matter was attained.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with a sincere film about a zero becoming a hero and overcoming multiple odds, but EDDIE THE EAGLE is frustratingly insulated under too many layers of overused crowd-pleasing formulas that subverts it from being significantly enthralling. 

The central story of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards' rise (if you can call it that) in his sport is also much more complicated and polarizing than this film ever lets on.  In 1988 he became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in ski jumping at the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary.  He became a relative overnight success at the games not because he was a gifted athlete, nor because he proved his worth on the slopes.  In actuality, he finished dead last in both the 70m and 90m Olympic events and never went on to participate in another Winter Olympics, let alone qualify.  He was, in short, an abysmal failure in Calgary.  However, he nevertheless became a beloved figure and international celebrity of the games because his unbridled exuberance displayed in, well, just being there won him over in the hearts and minds of spectators.  It’s clear that his passion for the sport overwhelmed any actual aptitude he had for it, which begs multiple questions: Was he a true hero that represented the Olympic ideals of amateur athletes trying their best regardless of outcomes or victories?  Or, was he an embarrassing black mark on his sport and the Olympic Games as a whole, especially for the worthy and trained competitors that truly deserved to be there? 



EDDIE THE EAGLE is so safe with the underlining material that it frankly doesn’t have time for probing the latter question (that, and it just sort of skims the surface of the established fact that Edwards only made it to the Olympic Games based on a silly loophole in Great Britain’s qualification criteria).  Clearly, the film regarding Edwards’ life has been largely fictionalized to accentuate its chief theme of an oddly mannered, poorly dressed, and athletically challenged sap that had enough guts, perseverance, and heart to prove his naysayers wrong in competition.  The film opens by introducing us to a young Eddie that’s a bright minded, deeply passionate, but hopelessly bumbling child that sure thinks that he has what it takes to make it someday as an Olympic champion.  His mother (Jo Hartley) is nurturing and supporting of her son’s aims, whereas his dad (Keith Allen) seems more pragmatic in thinking that Eddie has a no chance in h-e-double-hockey-sticks in becoming an athlete.  

The film zips forward several years to the late 80’s, when Eddie (THE KINGSMEN’s charismatic Taron Egerton) has almost given up on his dreams of becoming an Olympian after failing in multiple sports…that is until he has an epiphany and decides to give ski jumping a chance, despite having no formal training in the dangerous event whatsoever.  Deciding to take one last shot, Eddie journeys out to Germany to train with fellow Olympic athletes in hopes of competing and qualifying for the 1988 Winter Games…but very soon he realizes that – without proper tutelage – the chances of him seriously injuring himself while jumping is dangerously high.  Rather conveniently, Eddie hooks up with a former Olympic ski jumper, now chronic alcoholic named Bronson (Hugh Jackman), whom initially warns Eddie to give up while he still has a head on his shoulders, but he eventually warms over to the lad’s plucky determination.  Bronson decides to coach Eddie in the technical particulars of his sport and, yes, Eddie does indeed make it to the '88 Winter Games under the watchful eyes of the world. 

I said before that Bronson’s appearance in Eddie’s life was “convenient” because…it really was from a storytelling perspective.  He never existed in real life, seeing as Eddie trained in Lake Placid under two men before heading to the Olympics.  Dramatic license is typically the name of the game for films such as this, but EDDIE THE EAGLE turns a relative blind eye to multiple truths on a storytelling front, such as the fact that Eddie never competed again on an international or Olympic stage, mostly because the International Olympic Committee instituted new rules (ostensibly because of his involvement in the ’88 Games) that meant that aspiring athletes had to finish in the top 30 per cent or the top 50 competitors of their sport, whichever was greater, to be even granted admission to participate in the games.  Other troubling and sad details were also omitted in the film, like the fact that Eddie’s post-Calgary life was anything but rosy.  He filed for bankruptcy in 1992 due to accounting mismanagement.  Nearly all of the money that he made as a result of his Olympic involvement – including the £180,000 he made for selling the film rights to his life story – went to his wife after a nasty divorce.  He now works as a plasterer. 

Yeah…yeah…EDDIE THE EAGLE is not supposed to be a Debbie Downer of a film.  That much is clear.  Yet, in the film’s noble minded and good natured attempts to place its titular character on an easy pillar of hero worship it all but forgets to present a fuller and more well rounded portrait of what made this man tick.  Eddie, oddly enough, is arguably the least fleshed out and developed character in the entire film, and even though I admired Egerton’s irresistibly dweeby charm and his strangely winning and quirky performance here, the overall script frames Eddie in woefully simplistic and superficial ways to compliment the film’s fairly ham-invested plotting.  Then there’s the notion of whether or not Eddie was a national hero or a national joke, something that the film feels entirely reticent in exploring.  Of course, there’s no questioning that Eddie’s innate bravery (he was crazily courageous in risking life and limb) and boisterous personality made him a cherished and memorable figure of the ’88 Games, but his cartoonish-like antics were also a blemish on the Olympic establishment and highly discomforting to trained and gifted ski jumpers in general.  Curiously, I think that in our modern reality TV centric and social media savvy culture Eddie would be considered more of a pathetic pop culture joke than a sporting persona of true gumption and resolve.   

EDDIE THE EAGLE is unquestionably a well-made movie.  Egerton is kind of perfectly cast here and displays ample chemistry with Jackman, the latter of whom brings some semblance of grit and edge to an otherwise pedestrian film (there’s even a late breaking cameo by Christopher Walken late in the story as Bronson’s mentor that proves that a little bit of Christopher Walken goes a very long way in classing up any film).  I admired the film’s bright and bubbly 1980’s era veneer (the synth-heavy musical chords by Matthew Margeson is a radical delight throughout).  The recreation of the Eddie’s multiple jumps are effectively and thanklessly recreated employing a solid marriage of stunt footage and computer effects and compositing.   Lastly, I also appreciated that this is a rare sports film that’s not entirely centered on winning the proverbial “big game” at its climax.  EDDIE THE EAGLE is quirky and enjoyable, to be sure, but its complete unwillingness to confront some of the central contradictions of Eddie Edwards’ life story makes it difficult for me to fully recommend it for theatrical viewing.  Considering that he's in every single frame of this film, the makers don’t seem altogether engaged at probing deeper into his psychology.  Instead, EDDIE THE EAGLE is all about serving up genre comfort food that goes down easily, but is also easily disregarded after consuming it. 

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