To be perfectly clear, I am not a fan of sports movies at all. I find them often boring, clichéd and utterly dull. However, there have been a few sports-themed films that have actually been absolutely brilliant, and proven to be thoroughly entertaining, from beginning to end. The rare sports film that is actually brilliant is far and few between all the trite and clichéd nonsense produced about sport. One sports-themed film that is actually nearly perfect is Eddie the Eagle, which is certainly one of the sweetest and most endearing films I have seen this year, and without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best films of the year.
Cinema is something that records and reflects history in a very bizarre way – there are some stories that are popular in their day, but later generations are not quite as aware of these stories, and thus it is sometimes the responsibility of cinema to record and represent them so that they are available for future generations to see and understand – it begs the question of whether if something is not recorded or documented, did it really happen? One such story that I had never heard of before Eddie the Eagle is that of its subject, Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards, a British Olympic jump-skier that shocked the world and stole the hearts and minds of people all across the globe. It happened before I was born, and the only way Eddie was ever historically relevant was pretty much only as an answer to a pub-quiz question. However, his fascinating story was given the cinematic treatment (and deservedly so – my research on Eddie has proven that he is an amazing character and one of the most inspiring stories I’ve encountered). Unlike many biopics, the story of Eddie the Eagle was absolutely brilliant, and it deserved a proper film.
Eddie the Eagle tells the story of the titular Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards, a devoted young man who has one simple dream in life – he wants to compete in the Olympic Games. This is the ambition of many young people, but the difference is, unlike many young people that want to compete in the Olympic Games, Eddie is almost completely untalented, and unskilled at any sport. Another difference is that he doesn’t want to be the greatest Olympian the world has ever seen – he rather wants the simple satisfaction of having competed in the Olympics. He finds his way into the Olympics through becoming the first British ski-jumper since 1929 – and the fact that hardly anyone (let alone the actual Olympic selection committee) actually believes in him only drives Eddie to compete even more. What follows is the very definition of an underdog story – an individual with very little skills or training actually attempts to do something amazing, armed only with determination and self-confidence, which is all anyone actually needs to achieve anything (or at least that’s what my kindergarten teacher used to say).
Taron Egerton is one of the finest young actors working today, and while he was fantastic in Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was here that he truly got a deeply complex character to work with. Vaguely detached from reality, and incredibly likable, Egerton’s performance as Eddie is something truly wonderful. He takes a character who would otherwise be incredibly annoying and makes him into a wonderfully developed, complicated character that we want to succeed. Egerton gives everything to this role, and does such a brilliant job of showing Eddie as one of the most inspiring athletes in history, and telling Eddie’s story through a dedicated, layered performance, and hopefully Egerton’s star will continue to rise, as his performance here proves his grand talents, and I think he’s got a great future ahead of him.
Egerton is great, but Eddie the Eagle is as much about the titular character as it is about the man that helped him reach the level of fame that he achieved – Bronson Peary, played by Hugh Jackman. Peary, a fictional character, is shown as a rugged cowboy type, who used to be a star ski-jumper, but let his own selfishness get in the way of his team’s success, forcing him into a banal life of plowing the snow on the very slopes that he used to dominate. Jackman is one of the most versatile and interesting performers working today, and when he is not playing the brutal Wolverine on film, he is dancing his way across Broadway. The role of Bronson Peary is a tricky one – it is a typical mentor role, complete with the weakness (in this case, alcohol) and the eventual degrading of his frosty heart into helping our protagonist. Many actors could have done it – but none better than Jackman, who has the ability to be utterly endearing, even in his nastiest characters. Jackman proves himself more and more with every performance, and while Eddie the Eagle is certainly not the pinnacle of his acting career, it shows his charm and diverse acting ability, and reiterates why Jackman is such a beloved actor.
I did indeed say that I hate clichéd films – and I really do. Unless a film actually is aware of how clichéd it is, and panders to that fact. Eddie the Eagle exists within the most clichéd of all the sub-genres, and as with most (if not all) sports-themed films, there is a pattern of progression in the story – an underdog, with the help of a mentor, overcomes the opinion of others by succeeding and achieving his or her dream. Eddie the Eagle is not spared from this clichéd story arc at all – but somehow, it manages to transcend the cliché and make something special out of it – I am not exactly sure how it achieves this – but perhaps it is because Eddie the Eagle has a heart way too big for its own good, and the story is just so inspiring, it is impossible to not love it. The biggest factor is because unlike so many other similar films, Eddie the Eagle doesn’t take itself seriously – it is a hilarious film, that finds humour in its inspiring story. It is just a film filled with the most impossibly positive message you can find, and strangely it never comes close to being too clichéd. By the time the film ended, my face legitimately hurt from smiling so much – it is the exact kind of film that puts you in a good mood.
I thought Eddie the Eagle was absolutely extraordinary. I wasn’t expecting to like it this much, but I adored it. It is just the perfect blend of humor and inspiration, and will likely entertain nearly everyone who watches it. You would need to have a heart of solid rock to avoid the charms of this film, and while a few other films this year have been much better, Eddie the Eagle is definitely one of the very best, and a pleasant surprise. I can’t urge you to see this film enough, it is just truly special.