The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher
Starring Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman
We’re starting to realise that when the name of Dexter Fletcher is attached as Director to a project, that we are going to be treated to something with a common touch that is inarguably above average. Perhaps this is the projects he chooses to become associated with, invited to attend here by none other than Matthew Vaughn, in the guise on this occasion of Producer. Wild Bill was one of my favourite films of 2011 and Sunshine On Leith narrowly missed out on a top ten place in 2013. With this, his third directorial feature effort, we can safely say that Eddie The Eagle will also place fairly highly in this years’ list of great movie experiences.
Stated quite clearly on the credits, this is ‘based’ on a true story, although it does take biographical liberties with some of the facts and characters involved in this story of one boys’ dream to make it to Olympic competition by any means necessary.
Nonetheless, it is no worse for this fact as Fletcher rightly recognises that in order for the film to flow for the benefit of his audience, a little tweaking was required for the emotional resonance to have any effect. This is also true for timing, which has been reduced by about half an hour from the original, so the story never has the chance to become draining for the viewer, deleting a few scenes and re-editing others to keep you facing forwards.
Normally, I’m not one to feel too emotional when it comes to movies, having only been moved to actual tears on a couple of occasions in the past decade. Perhaps it comes with the territory, viewing every movie I see with at least one eye on what it will be like for everyone else, but even I got the ‘feels’ here on no less than three separate occasions. This is no mean feat and far from what I had expected. By equal measure, you should know that I didn’t laugh anywhere near as much as I thought I would either, which says more about Fletcher’s approach to the script, than my potentially cold and emotionless regard for the material.
Egerton’s portrayal of the goofy, bespectacled Eddie Edwards does occasionally approach caricature, but thankfully never quite reaches it and this happens nowhere near as frequently as his embodiment of the character convinces us of its authenticity. Edwards was/is a unique character anyway, and creating a realistic version of him for the screen was never going to be easy, as even the real Edwards was seen as a figure of fun. The temptation to ham that fact up was thankfully underplayed, however, with Fletcher keeping the flow of the piece firmly fixated upon the story as much as the character.
Jackman’s support was priceless, as without him, a realistic tether that aided, abetted and argued as we would ourselves, the plot and Edwards could have easily run away with themselves and as such, parody was avoided by the presence of a character with, albeit misguided with hindsight, common-sense negativity.
If you’re not familiar with this incredible story of a man that finished last at the Olympics, then you might want to seek it out prior to watching this as a smattering of knowledge on the subject will go a long way. Also competing at the same Winter Olympics in Calgary that year were the Jamaican bobsleigh team, that ended up being the inspiration for Cool Runnings, and if you’ve seen that, then this is not so far removed, except here the focus is more on overcoming adversity and gunning for the underdog, than jokes about Jamaican’s and snow (listen out for the joke).
Overall, this is great stuff again from Fletcher, who continues to impress us with his directorial prowess. It’s been a long time since Press Gang, and the rest of us are much better off for his decision to lurk behind the camera, rather than ape around in front of it. One of the best films I’ve seen this calendar year, and as I said, will no doubt be there or abouts when the all important top ten drops in December.