Eddie the Eagle

Review by Chris Blohm @chrisblohm

Directed by

Dexter Fletcher

Starring

Christopher Walken Hugh Jackman Taron Egerton

Anticipation.

A film about the greatest loser in sport? It’s all downhill from here.

Enjoyment.

A star-making turn from Egerton commands attention.

In Retrospect.

Sticks to the rule-book.

Kingsman star Taron Egerton puts in another impressive shift in this guilty pleasure nostalgia fest.

What is it about Dexter Fletcher and the perils and pitfalls of paternity? His latest film as director is Eddie the Eagle, an oddly conventional biopic that uses a strained father-son relationship to frame its rabble-rousing, crowd-pleasing reflection on futility.

The story is a simple one: notorious ski-jumping loser Eddie Edwards overcomes his lack of talent – and ignores the advice of his disappointed dad – by competing in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Along the way, he picks up a disgruntled drunk of a coach, who becomes a new father figure and unwitting role model, despite suffering from a plethora of daddy issues himself.

Thematically, it feels like the culmination of an increasingly commercial series that explores different facets of fatherhood. Fletcher’s directorial debut was the western-infused gangster parable Wild Bill about the fall-out when a gnarly old con makes amends to his sons for years of negligence. He followed that up with the ebullient Sunshine on Leith, a middle-class morality musical about a dad fighting for both life and marriage when a family secret threatens to tear everything apart. Families at war, youngsters fleeing the nest, the torment of the past: these are the commonalities in Flexter’s work.

Eddie the Eagle ticks off all these tropes, and while it isn’t quite as satisfying as those earlier films, there are some entertaining moments, and it brims with hope. The movie chronicles – in a very systematic fashion – the trials and tribulations Edwards faces as he fumbles towards his impossible dream. It does so with absolute gusto, if not any supreme degree of polish. The plot fits together clunkily, and every single sports movie cliché since the beginning of time (or at least since the beginning of Rocky) is dutifully rolled out as if by some kind of contractual obligation.

But a strange and eerie feeling develops as the narrative mechanically edges towards Edwards’ shambolic triumph in Calgary: it’s a feeling of unexpected joy. There are a couple of key reasons for this: firstly, the ski-jumping sequences really are very well done. Fletcher effectively and economically captures the bone-crunching terror of this most ridiculous of sports, and these scenes are hair-raising, adrenaline-pumping and weirdly euphoric. Audiences with a fear of heights may suffer throughout.

Secondly, there’s the terrific, star-making performance of Taron Egerton, who ditches the wide-boy act of Kingsman: The Secret Service and delivers an adorably empathetic turn in the title role. There’s something of Forrest Gump about the character, both in terms of his determination to beat the odds, and his sheer physicality. Thrillingly, Egerton more than holds his own against a slightly miscast Hugh Jackman, who plays coach Bronson Peary with all the world weariness of a Hollywood star on his way to a power lunch at Spago.

Just like his titular hero, Fletcher makes the most of what he’s got. In this case, he’s got a screenplay brimming with daddy issues, and some very British, end-of-the-pier material that captures the underdog spirit of Eddie and his madcap endeavour, but never quite takes off. His film is sideways step, rather than a giant leap forward.

Published 29 Mar 2016

Tags: Hugh Jackman Olympics Taron Egerton Winter Olympics

Anticipation.

A film about the greatest loser in sport? It’s all downhill from here.

Enjoyment.

A star-making turn from Egerton commands attention.

In Retrospect.

Sticks to the rule-book.

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