By: Muneeb Arshid
Who knew a film about ski jumping would actually work out. Granted, it has Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton as part of its cast, but seriously, it’s a film about ski jumping! Eddie the Eagle is the real-life story of British Olympian Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, who charmed the pants off of the Calgarians at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
The film chronicles the life of Eddie (Taron Egerton) as he overcomes many difficulties over his life and career, training and dreaming of going to the Olympics one day. His obstacles begin as a child when he is shown to have severe knee problems hindering him from fully competing in physical activity. However, Eddie is able to overcome all of the challenges and eventually make it to the Olympics albeit whilst attempting to find his place amidst a plethora of sports along the way.
During Eddie’s journey of honing his new skills for ski jumping, he leaves his home in England for the Ski Jumping training facility in Germany and encounters a very disgruntled Hugh Jackman playing the snow groomer Bronson Peary. As we find out through the film, Peary was actually a world-class American ski-jumper who also competed at the Olympics. There are some liberties taken with Jackman’s entire arc since the real story actually takes place in Lake Placid, New York and does not contain a Peary at all. But, that wouldn’t be quite so entertaining on the big screen now, would it? However, the inclusion of Jackman into the film may have brought the studio funding for the film, but it also created a situation that has been seen many, many times in sports biopics before: a cliche character. Peary is a disgraced man who is very reliant on his flask of alcohol and fell out with the American team and his coach Warren Sharp (Christopher Walken) during his competition days. If that description doesn’t describe the cliche typecast of his character, then nothing will. There is, however, nothing to fault Jackman for his portrayal of the unwilling “coach” for Eddie. He is able to transition from playing a drunk to a character who is beginning his transition to redemption, not only in his own life but as a means of proving his worth to his old mentor as well. What lingers in your mind during the film is just how clichéd Jackman’s character is, regardless of how fun he ends up being.
Egerton, on the other hand, seemed like a very weird casting choice based on the trailers. However, considering that this is a Matthew Vaughn production, it made a whole lot of sense why he was cast as Eddie. If you take a side-by-side with the actual Eddie, there is actually quite a bit of resemblance between the two men. There was also a feeling that Egerton’s characterization would get quite annoying during the film, but that wasn’t the case at all. Egerton portrays Eddie as a very sweet, hard-working and determined athlete intent on making it to the Olympics, despite the fact that his dream irks his father (Keith Allen) who felt that Eddie was wasting his time and should work with him and earn an honest living as a plasterer.
The film is technically classified as a comedy and as such, there are a few comedic moments in the film, most pertaining to Eddie himself as he is quite a goofy character with a very light-hearted personality. His interactions with Hugh Jackman’s Peary were also quite funny with Eddie regularly commenting on Peary’s shortcomings in life as a person and sportsman. There was a bit of discrepancy in terms of how funny the rest of the audience found it compared to me. There were major outbursts of laughter from the admittedly small crowd, but nothing that I reciprocated at their level. However, I was smiling all the way through with a few chuckles at said comedic moments.
One aspect that truly stands out about the film are the ski jumping sequences themselves. Cinematographer George Richmond has used beautiful panning shots especially those at the top of the ski jump. One such sequence is when Eddie decides to attempt the 70 metre jump for the first time with very little prior training. To give the audience a little perspective on that height, Richmond pans the camera from the stairs leading to the top and stops at a point behind Eddie where we’re given a perspective of what Eddie would see straight ahead past the training center itself. The camera then slowly moves down showing the audience the immense task that faces Eddie down that slope. It’s an absolutely beautiful sequence which allows the audiences to gain a perspective as to what ski jumpers have in their visual fields at the beginning of their jumps.
The biggest achievement that Eddie the Eagle accomplishes is the fact that it is able to deliver a film about a sport like ski jumping in such a way that it does not start to feel tedious or boring as the sport itself may feel to the general sports audience (no disrespect to the sport itself). It tells the story of Eddie Edwards and his determination to make it to the Olympics in a way that is surprisingly interesting but also fun, mostly due to the characters themselves, albeit flaws with said characters.
Eddie the Eagle gets a very solid score of B- (7.2/10).