EDDIE THE EAGLE
2016, PG-13, 105 mins.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.