‘Eddie the Eagle’ Review: An Underdog Sports Movie Destined to Become a Classic

     January 29, 2016


The world needs more movies like Eddie the Eagle. If you’re looking for a little motivation, director Dexter Fletcher’s approach to this wildly inspiring story will undoubtedly leave you with a pep in your step and the feeling that you can achieve your dreams as well.

Taron Egerton leads as the title character, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, born Michael Edwards. Eddie’s been dreaming of becoming an Olympian ever since he was a kid. He practiced holding his breath underwater, pole-vaulting and absolutely anything else that could possibly pave the way to an Olympic appearance. Trouble is, bad knees, poor eyesight and a lack of natural athleticism kept him from excelling at most sports. He came close to making it as a downhill skier, but fell short in that category as well. But then Eddie found a loophole. There were no other British ski jumpers so all he had to do was land a particular jump and he’d become the only British ski jumper at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

That’s a serviceable overview, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the complexity of Eddie’s journey, which is riddled with naysayers and physical and financial obstacles. You need some motivation to beat the odds? Watch Eddie the Eagle. Not only is Eddie shunned by the British Olympic Association and the other ski jumpers at his training facility, but his own father won’t even give him the benefit of the doubt. However, none of that is a match for Eddie’s unshakable and infectious optimism.


Image via 20th Century Fox

Eddie’s a bit of a kooky character and Egerton hams it up a good deal, but when you pair those eccentricities with the style and tone of the film, it all comes together in way that feels surprisingly honest and natural. Yes, Eddie the Eagle has the obligatory training montage, but the movie isn’t about some guy who trains non-stop and becomes a champion. It’s about someone who finds his own unique form of success simply by believing in himself, and that’s what makes Eddie the Eagle hit home more so than the large majority of sports movies out there. Eddie’s road to the Olympics may be filled with loads of twists and turns, but ultimately, Eddie the Eagle is a rather straightforward story about success via positive thinking and determination, something that we’re all capable of.

Fletcher does a brilliant job blending Eddie’s rather goofy behavior with the intensity of the sport. Matthew Margeson whipped up a fantastic synth-heavy score that suits the 80s setting and also gives the film an especially jovial feel, which is right in line with Eddie’s cheerful disposition. However, that never stops Fletcher from reminding the viewer how dangerous ski jumping is. Not only do we see quite a few vicious crashes, a number of which involve and injure Eddie, but there are also plenty of shots of monstrous ramps that’ll make you queasy even when the slopes are silent and no one’s going down them.

Fletcher’s shot selection is on point from start to finish and he captures Eddie’s runs down the ramps exceptionally well, but a big reason his attempts to nail the 40 and 70-meter ramps are so affecting is because Fletcher and screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton really take the time to dig into how dangerous the sport is and what it takes to become a successful ski jumper. The jumps are nerve-wracking enough when Eddie is training himself and somewhat haphazardly mimicking the best, but thanks to one very silly yet especially informative and unforgettable scene, you wind up with a comprehensive understanding of proper ski jumping form so every time Eddie goes down the ramp from that point on, it’s about far more than just sticking the landing, upping the intensity of those jumps tenfold.


Image via 20th Century Fox

The reason Eddie is able to kick his ski jumping up a notch is Hugh Jackman’s character, Bronson Peary. Back in the day, Peary was one of the most promising members of Warren Sharp’s (Christopher Walken) US Olympic ski jumping team, but he got the boot due to his lack of focus and inability to follow the rules. Now he does maintenance work at a training facility and struts around without a jacket because, as he proudly proclaims, his flask is his jacket. There’s really nothing revelatory about the guy and the performance is very reminiscent of Jackman’s work in Real Steel, but the actor made for a great former champ-turned-trainer in that and he does the exact same thing right here. Jackman and Egerton have tons of chemistry and their relationship benefits from the fact that, beyond a passion for ski jumping, Peary and Eddie are two very different people. Both have good qualities and some less desirable ones, and you can see them affect and change each other as the story moves forward.

Fletcher and his team definitely took some liberties in adapting the true story so it’s hard not to wonder what a version that stuck to the facts and perhaps had a more serious tone might have looked like, but in assessing Eddie the Eagle as a standalone entity, the film is exceptional. It treads into silly and sappy territory every once in a while, but thanks to Fletcher’s steadfast direction, almost all of it winds up feeling appropriate and serves the experience as a whole quite well. There is no stopping a film with this much heart. It’s the quintessential crowd-pleaser, brimming with so much positivity that it’ll truly leave you feeling hopeful about your own endeavors when it’s over.

Grade: A-


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