Film review: Eddie The Eagle

At the 1988 Winter Olympics, Britain found a new sporting hero. He was the one-man ski jumping team, he’d qualified for the competition by the skin of his teeth and he didn’t win a medal. In fact, he was permanently in last place. But everybody came under the energetic spell of Eddie Edwards. Nearly 30 years later, he’s inspired a big screen version of his story, which flies into cinemas on Friday, 1 April 2016. No joke! London Mums’ resident film critic, Freda Cooper, finds out if Eddie The Eagle lands on its feet.

The story

For as long as he could remember, Eddie Edwards had always wanted to compete in the Olympics. Life had other ideas, giving him mobility problems and poor eyesight, but he was never defeated and, when he was forced to rule out athletics, he turned his attention to winters sports. Ski jumping in particular. Against all the odds, he qualified for the Olympics, becoming Britain’s one-man ski jumping team. He acquires an unlikely coach as well, who inspires him even further. And while he doesn’t win a single medal, his exploits and boundless enthusiasm win the hearts of thousands, especially back home.

 
The trailer

 

 

The verdict

While this is a fictionalised account of how Eddie (Taron Edgerton) came to compete at the Winter Olympics, it’s still true to the essence of the story. One of a man who wasn’t good enough to win a medal, knew it, but still wanted to compete and do his best, despite all the obstacles put in his way. The major piece of fiction in the story is his coach, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a washed-up former pro who decided to invest his talents in the contents of a bottle and now drives a snow sweeper on the practice slopes. The two are, of course, chalk ‘n’ cheese: Eddie drinks milk, Peary prefers scotch, Eddie’s an optimist, Peary is the other way inclined. But even a cynic like Peary eventually has to capitulate in the face of Eddie’s persistence and agrees to be his coach. The rest, as they say, is history. Sort of. Because, although he did have a coach, it wasn’t Peary.

Director Dexter Fletcher is a dab hand at spotting a feel good story and turning into a film. He made the musical Sunshine On Leith (2013), based on the songs of The Proclaimers, and which proved a hit with audiences.   He’s on to an even bigger winner here in what is, so far, the best feel good movie of 2016. The ingredients are all there: the underdog, his supportive mother and sceptical father, the unlikely coach, the many disasters on the slopes, all shot through with an irresistible warmth and good humour. If your heart hasn’t completely melted by the time the credits roll, it must be made of ice.

 

 

Taron Edgerton wouldn’t have been the first name that came to mind to play the awkward yet endearing Edwards, especially after the slick, high-kicking Kingsman:The Secret Service. But he totally gets the spirit of the man. And yet again, he has an experienced actor to act alongside him: it was Colin Firth in Kingsman, here it’s Hugh Jackman, looking far better preserved than you would expect from somebody with a liking for booze ‘n’ fags.

The rest of the cast is full of class British acts. Keith Allen as Edwards Senior, who dreamed of being a plasterer: Jim Broadbent as the British TV skiing commentator who can’t wait to tell the world that “the eagle has landed”: Tim McInnerny as the snooty head of the British Olympic Committee, channelling a lot more Blackadder than Percy. And, as a touch of icing on the cake, Christopher Walken as Jackman’s former coach.

 

 

Mums’ rating: 8/10

This is simply a great story that’s been made into an adorable film, overflowing with charm, humour and warmth. And it doesn’t fight shy of mentioning that other legendary team from the 1988 Winter Olympics. The Jamaican bobsled team, who made it into cinemas in 1993 in Cool Runnings. Who wouldn’t have wanted a ticket to those Olympics?

Eddie The Eagle the film is a sure fire winner. Eddie The Eagle the man didn’t win a medal, but he won hearts instead. So will the film.

 

Eddie The Eagle is released in cinemas on Friday, 1 April 2016, certificate PG, and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 31 March.

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