So yeah, two Olympic movies in two weeks? We certainly love our gold medals! Well.. maybe not in the case of Eddie the Eagle. While Race touted a Jesse Owens fighting race relations and coming out on top, using his natural ability and a solid amount of training to achieve gold, Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards accomplishes winning the hearts of the American people not by being the best, but by trying his best. Both are stories of perseverance and display two men overcoming adversity, however the way the to men accomplish this are completely different. The story of Eddie is an odd one. He is not a natural athlete in any sense of the word and has an overly forward and direct personality that is, at first, off-putting, but the heart, blood, sweat and tears that he displays to the world is what really makes this story worth telling.
Cut from the Olympic ski team, British athlete Michael “Eddie” Edwards travels to Germany to test his skills at ski jumping. Fate leads him to Bronson Peary, a former ski jumper who now works as a snowplow driver. Impressed by Edwards’ spirit and determination, Peary agrees to train the young underdog. Despite an entire nation counting him out, Eddie’s never-say-die attitude takes him all the way to a historic and improbable showing at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.
You have to be an extremely crazy person to even attempt what Eddie Edwards attempted in the 1988 winter Olympics. He has always wanted to be in the Olympics but has never been a truly gifted athlete. After being cut by the Olympic downhill skiing team, a team in which is was completely qualified to be on, he finds out that Britain doesn’t have a ski jumping team. And if he is the only one competing, then he is by default, the best ski jumper in the country! However, even as he breaks British records again and again, he finds himself unwanted at the Olympics. But if I have learned anything from the classic Rocky franchise, it is that heart and determination can beat raw talent on a good day. And ultimately, that’s what Eddie has going for him. It’s the true underdog story that probably carries more weight in American than it does in the UK, but his ‘no-quit’ attitude is what tugs at your heart strings in this film.
Taron Egerton does a marvelous job as Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. Seriously, did you see him in Kingsman? In terms of looks and personality, those two roles could not be more different. The suave and confident “Eggy” would probably find Eddie to be an odd duck. But Taron’s acting talent really shines through in this film as he is able to take someone who could easily come off as overly awkward and unlikable and turn in into someone who you can root for. Even when he is being overly annoying, his constant pestering and drive are admirable and you find yourself rooting for him far before any crowd at the Olympics are. But as great as his performance is, odds are his character might have gotten annoying in a solo performance. So Hugh Jackman’s role felt a bit of a necessary one for this film to be truly good.
But don’t bother looking up Bronson Peary, as he is a fictional character made up for the sake of the movie. In reality, Peary is an amalgamation of two ‘coaches’ that Eddie had. Chuck Berghorn and John Viscome were his actual coaches and while Viscome is long since deceased (1998) however, according to Bustle, Berghorn had these words to say about what it was like ‘helping’ Eddie:
“I do remember him coming out to the ski jumps and wanting to learn how to jump. He wasn’t very good, and because of his age, you couldn’t really teach him anything.”
However, in Hollywood, we cannot simply have a [hopefully] inspiring story with an uninspired coach. So Jackman takes on the role of Mick from Rocky , coach Bombay from the Mighty Ducks or, probably most accurate of all, Coach Buttermaker from The Bad News Bears. His struggle is that of a fall from grace, once a promising and talented ski jumper who chose to drink his way out of the sport and is only accepted back in when Eddie scratches and claws his way into the cold man’s heart. Their dynamic is, at first, an odd one, but Peary becomes somewhat of a mentor to Eddie and they both grow as the film progresses. Hugh Jackman brings his usual charm to a role channeling his character from Real Steel with that of Logan and it works to make him charming and extremely funny.
If there is something truly wrong with this film it is that the only thing Eddie is really able to accomplish in this in regards to the competition, it is that he was able to not make a complete fool of himself. The films tries to paint an extremely black and white picture of the events. Eddie is ‘good’ and the British Olympic Association is ‘bad’– but it certainly isn’t as straight forward as that. Grants, in the film, there are complete dicks that are easy to hate, but if you really think about it, Eddie is someone to be feared by these people. Not only does he never quit, he really has very little ability over all. Even on his BEST day, he has no realistic chance of winning. His best jump in the film was about 70 meters and the people he is competing against are accomplishing almost double that with relative ease. So, in all reality, he was asking the association to spend thousands of dollars on something that you wouldn’t even consider a long shot! Don’t get me wrong, I was rooting for Eddie to win or to do great just like everyone else, but in hindsight, what do you really expect him to accomplish? And I don’t know why I am so surprised, they utilized this quote several times in the movie that basically amounts to the mantra that it is better to try and fail than to never have tried at all.
That aside, this movie was a lot of fun. It was funny, action packed and really REALLY tugged on your heart strings. Eddie the Eagle, at least as a movie, is a winner in my book. It was well acted and kept you interested in a character that, I bet in real life, most of us would easily overlook or write off. I do at times think, however, that the elements of the film felt glamorized for the sake of making money and that you should take the story of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards with a heavy hollyoowd-sized grain of salt. But I would recommend seeing this film for no other reason than to just feel good and root for an underdog!