We can’t all be winners but the least we can do is try our best and be glad with what we’ve managed to accomplish. Knowing that you can at least reach the limit of your potential is just as good (if not better) than winning some little trophy or award. OK, so that was a little bit corny but it’s a good message to hold dear to your heart and is essentially the message we get in the latest film from the producers of Kingsman and its star, Eddie the Eagle. This is one of those inspirational sports films but one that is a little unlike the others. In this particular film based on a true story, Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) is a determined and scrappy young man living in Britain who, after finally being relieved of his leg brace as a child, decides to become an Olympian. He has many interests that change frequently until he discovers the art of ski jumping. Together with the apprehensive help of a former ski jumper (Hugh Jackman), Eddie is determined to face his obstacles and naysayers in life and make it to the Olympic Games. It is almost like a rags-to-better than rags story.
The film is an underdog story and that is a very easy one to get behind. Most everyone loves the tale of a down-and-out or underappreciated character struggling to make it to the top despite having to fight off multiple antagonists that get in his way. It doesn’t work without a strong actor and Taron Egerton proves to be that very person. After seeing Taron in a totally different kind of role in Kingsmen and excel at it, it is also really nice to see how much range ha has with this film. Every moment we see young Eddie we feel his determination and spirit as he keeps picking himself back up despite any setbacks he faces. He is the kind of person we all strive to be in life: no attitude, carefree demeanour and a big set of balls. If this was released in December, I would be hoping for a nomination for this man but it’s unlikely the Academy will have this long of a memory. Hugh Jackman also does a solid job as his (fictional) coach and adds a nice layer of character development onto the part. I’m thinking specifically of the part where Hugh is referring to his “jacket”; that little story arc has a very nicely-done conclusion. Jo Hartley and Keith Allen are also very good as Eddie’s mom and dad, respectively. Hartley is much more open and supportive while Allen is stern and realistic which gives Eddie a nice balance between the two of them when it comes to support and reassurance. The only actor who didn’t really do anything for me was a fairly unknown one named Edvin Endre, who played a world-famous ski jumper. Once he opens his mouth towards the end of the film, I winced a bit because his dialogue seemed forced and unnatural.
It’s a beautiful true story that’s come to life here and I’m sure they’ve taken some artistic liberties with the facts and no, I don’t really care what they made up and what was real. What the filmmakers have done though is created a fairly unique underdog sports movie that doesn’t hit all the typical cliche notes that most films of this ilk tend to hit. That is not to say that there aren’t any cliched sports moments because there are quite a few but it doesn’t really hinder the film in the slightest. The film even has the typical training montage (and sets it to Hall & Oates) but I was grinning from ear to ear for most of the film to even care about overused film tropes. The writing is still very good and is perfect for the genre formula. Not knowing the story itself, I was unaware of what happened to Eddie, how far he got or any of the obstacles that he may have overcome. I encourage those who haven’t seen the film to go see it before reading up on it and then you can learn about the true story afterwards if you so desire.
A big part of the film that looks impressive are the ski jumps themselves. Luckily, they don’t rely on these scenes as a crutch or anything but the cinematography here is stunning. It actually reminded me of some of the beautiful cinematography in the good-but-flawed film Everest. You feel every meter of that ski jump hill and every time Eddie goes off the jump, I was squirming in my seat in cautious anticipation. Another scene in which a drunken Hugh Jackman goes to the top of the 90-meter ski jump is one of the biggest nail-biters in the film simply because we identify with Eddie the whole time and he looks scared out of his mind just watching this unfold.
Eddie the Eagle is a lovely, inspirational film that has a real message: do your best even if you don’t necessarily come out as the biggest winner on the other side.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)