6 April 2016

Eddie the Eagle review

Based on a true story, Eddie the Eagle follows Michael Edwards, an Olympic hopeful who after failing to qualify for the 1984 Winter Olympics in downhill skiing starts training for the 1988 games as Britain's only ski jumper. Moving to a training facility in Germany, his sheer determination to compete in the Winter Olympics despite his lack of experience or ability soon wins over ex-Olympic ski jumper Bronson Peary, who agrees to coach him.

Eddie the Eagle is as traditional a film as you are likely to see, following the tried and tested formula of the sports biopic pretty much to the letter and hitting all the same beats that you've seen before in the exact order you would expect. But I don't really mean this as a bad thing - it may not subvert your expectations or revitalise the genre, but it's still an incredibly well made movie with two great performances from Taron Egerton as Michael Edwards and Hugh Jackman as the fictional Bronson Peary.

When I first heard about Eddie the Eagle I (like most people) was surprised to find out that the guy who played the suave, charismatic Egsy in Kingsman: The Secret Service would be playing the films titular character, but in retrospect it makes a lot of sense - Eddie the Eagle shows what great range Egerton has as an actor, still overwhelmingly likeable but in a very, very different way. He feels optimistic without coming across as naive, overtly enthusiastic without being irritating, and I can't imagine the film working as well as it does with somebody else playing Eddie.

The same is true of Hugh Jackman, who seems to be having a lot of fun playing the washed-up and drunken Bronson Peary. He's effortlessly cool even when he's being knocked unconscious in a single punch, and he has fantastic chemistry with Egerton - most of the films best scenes come from just watching these two actors bounce off each other in a fairly typical "odd-couple" dynamic. But again, I don't mean that as a criticism - you may have seen this type of relationship on-screen before, but Eddie the Eagle makes it feel fresh just by doing it really well.

Which makes the real star of Eddie the Eagle director Dexter Fletcher, who imbues the whole film with this relentless sense of spirit that doesn't ever cross the line into cheesy. Eddie may be an optimist but he's never unrealistic about his goals and expectations, a sentiment that the film itself shares throughout. We're rooting for Eddie, sure - but we're never under any assumption that he might do anything other than compete, and by refusing to try to make Eddie's story feel more triumphant than it needs to Fletcher ensures that the film is accurate to the essence of the story being told, regardless of factual/historical accuracy.

Meaning that Eddie the Eagle is as much of a crowd-pleaser as you could ask for, a consistently entertaining feel good film that earns all of its big emotional moments without ever feeling manipulative. It's probably not going to win any awards, and I doubt it will end up being anyone's favourite film, but that's just fine - because Eddie the Eagle is still a solid, well-rounded film, and that should never stop being an acceptable thing for a film to be.

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