Eddie the Eagle

Directed By: Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jim Broadbent, and Christopher Walken

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."
-Pierre de Coubertin

There's nothing better than a surprise treat at the box office.  I typically don't have too many of these, especially this time of year.  In the last three weeks, however, I've had three rather enjoyable cinematic experiences.  Deadpool, The Witch, and Race all delivered the goods over the last few weeks.  Now, I can add a fourth to the list in this weekend's Eddie the Eagle.  With a biographical film about one of the most notable losers to ever grace the Winter Olympics, the opening quote above from Olympics founder Pierre de Coubertin has never been truer.  If the Olympics are all about the taking part, then this film brings this message fully back to life.  Ladies and gentlemen, the eagle has landed.

All his life, Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) has wanted nothing more than to compete at the Olympics.  It's the dream for which he habitually ran away from home as a child.  It's the dream for which he nearly bankrupted his parents (Keith Allen & Jo Hartley).  It's the dream for which he's given his life.  During his childhood, he focuses on the summer games and breaks plenty of glasses in the process — which are stored in a Blake's Biscuits lunchbox.  When his father tries to knock some sense into him and get him in the plastering industry, Eddie sets his sights on the Winter Olympics.  He wants to ski in the 1984 Games   There's just one problem.  His country doesn't agree.

After Britain conspires to keep the unkempt amateur Eddie from the Games in Los Angeles, the aspiring Olympian sets his sights on the 1988 Games in Calgary.  This time around, he raises the stakes.  No longer just skiing, Eddie is all about ski jumping.  It just so happens that the requirements to qualify in Britain are fairly lax given that the last ski jumper from the nation competed in the 1920s.  With this in mind, Eddie picks up a book by the legendary Olympic ski jumping coach Warren Sharp (Christopher Walken) and gets to work.  He makes his way to a training facility in Germany.  There, Eddie finds plenty of dangerous slopes.  There, he finds the courage to make these Winter Olympics his moment.  There, Eddie finds his new coach Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman).

If I didn't know the Olympics were happening this year, I do know now.  Between Race and Eddie the Eagle, we've gotten a healthy dose of the Games   For its part, this weekend's Eddie the Eagle captures the thrill and the struggle of the games in a very fun way.  Pumping plenty of electronic 80’s music, director Dexter Fletcher pulls a page out of producer Matthew Vaughn's playbook.  Fletcher makes the film somewhat cheesy but doesn't take it over the line.  He uses this to create a sense of nostalgia and to help insert some passion into the film, particularly as Taron Egerton's Eddie Edwards is majestically and thrillingly flying through the air.  In Eddie the Eagle, Fletcher simultaneously stretches up and leans into his descent.

In many ways as fate would have it, Eddie the Eagle oddly reminds me of Real Steel.  I know.  I'm comparing the Winter Olympics to a film about robots in boxing matches.  In both cases, however, it's not about winning or losing.  It's about taking part in a larger-than-life event.  That goes back to the passion and the earnest filmmaking I mentioned previously.  It also ties into the novelty of each of these films.  Sports dramas starring Transformers don't come every day nor do movies about the Winter Olympics, much less ski jumping.  It's in this novelty that Fletcher is able to build unconventional thrills and wonder.  It's a dangerous yet awe-inspiring art we haven't really seen on the big screen that much over the years, and Fletcher captures every second of it at the right angles, often in slow motion.  It's really something special to watch.

The actors deliver the goods as well.  For his part as our lead Eddie Edwards, Taron Egerton once again gives us an outsider looking in, but in a very different way.  Clumsy to perfection, the Kingsman: Secret Service star is genuine, heartfelt, and goofy in his endearing turn as the former Olympic athlete.  He's the right kind of actor to bring an 80’s charm to the film.  For his part as Egerton's co-star and on-screen coach Bronson Peary, Hugh Jackman does exactly what he does best when he's not breaking out adamantium claws.  That's serving up a self-loathing character scarred by his past.  Initially doubtful of Eddie's future, Jackman's character eventually becomes inspirational moral support.  Finally, Christopher Walken and Jim Broadbent also deliver solid performances that add a great deal to the film in their brief moments as Warren Sharp and a BBC commentator respectively.  Walken delivers some emotional heft, while Broadbent brings the comic relief.

Thoroughly entertaining as it takes us back to the 80s with style, Eddie the Eagle gets a 0.03% rating.  Don't miss this one, and don't forget the wine coolers.  You'll regret it otherwise.