Scene: 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. One British ski jumper went from an ordinary household, where generations upon generations worked themselves into the simple family plastering business, and reached heights that only he could dream of. Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) goes against all the odds in this touching and comedic true story directed by Dexter Fletcher. If you’re seeking a truly uplifting underdog story, then look no further than Eddie the Eagle.
It’s very easy to draw comparisons between Eddie the Eagle and Cool Runnings, not simply because they both occurred during the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, but more so in the sense that the main characters have an Olympic dream in an environment where the sport they now seek to participate in is totally alien to their surroundings and country’s history. Both feature a retired Olympian who wants nothing to do with the sport anymore, after being disqualified or banned. But, instead of John Candy we get Hugh Jackman, who plays Brosnan Peary, a former Olympic ski jumper who threw it all away with his bad attitude and drinking problems. I’d like to emphasise that these comparisons to Cool Runnings are in no way a bad thing, that movie was great and Eddie the Eagle follows suit.
Jackman plays the retired athlete/village drunk turned coach role perfectly, providing a polar opposite in many ways to the innocence and purity that surrounds Eddie. Fletcher has perfected the comedy of this film just so much as it doesn’t simply become a cheesy comedic sports flick but more of a moving personal journey that provides the audience with lovable characters and laughable circumstances. Jackman’s character becomes more than the simple drunk coach role however, due to his own personal journey underlying Eddie’s quest. The broken bond between Brosnan and his old coach (Christopher Walken) due to his disgruntled attitude towards the sport and failure to do his own talents justice haunts the character throughout Eddie’s training, allowing for an unexpected yet welcome depth to Jackman’s character.
The film is so faithfully rooted in the 1980s that I’m sure my descriptions can’t do it justice. The soundtrack is comprised of uplifting dance hits and an array of tracks that completely capture the era and allow the audience to travel back in time and be there along with the narrative. Not only was the soundtrack spectacular, but the costume design was perfected. The 80s colourful and retro fashion style was warming to see on screen, especially Eddie’s almost, at times, hilarious aesthetic. Not only this, but the gorgeous snowy landscapes and intimate yet particular indoor settings helped push the realness of the film.
The film even features actual footage from the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics of Michael “Eddie” Edwards, from which the costume and production design of the film are evidently drawn. This, combined with filming techniques such as multiple dramatic slow-motion shots played to inspirational music, really helped me appreciate the direction in which Fletcher took this film.
I went into this film attracted by the cast and general underdog, feel-good sports flick story, but became so engrossed in Eddie’s journey that at times it gave me goose bumps. Even though I already knew the real life story and how it would ultimately conclude, I was still gripped by Eddie the Eagle the entire way. A friend of mine, having seen posters and advertisements for the film, said he wasn’t sure how he felt being told before going in that it’s a “feel good” film. I can definitely confirm that Dexter Fletcher manages to create this feeling, but it is much more than simply a feel good sports flick. You’re guaranteed to be taken on an emotional and graceful story that imprints a sense of pride in what Michael “Eddie” Edwards was able to achieve.