Eddie the Eagle: Flight of the Familiar

Throughout the numerous genres of film, there is one genre that has offered good stories time and again. That is the true sports tale, the look at real events that had unfolded within the world of athletics. Many of these stories offer looks at individuals who overcome great challenge and adversity, whether physical or social, to achieve success in their sport. There are so many rich tales that have been told of this sort, yet there are those who do not look as highly upon the genre. For some, they may see such films as cheap grabs at “feel good” entertainment. They may feel that most films of this type tend to follow a certain formula in the stories they tell. They may even scorn these films for if they alter and change details, rather than sticking to just the true facts. Whatever the case may be, there is no denying that this genre has had plenty of representations from over the years. In fact, just recently there has been a new addition to the genre. Recently released to theaters is Eddie the Eagle, a true sports story that shows the strength in well-made “feel good” entertainment.

In the 1980s, Eddie Edwards had dreamed of being an Olympian. He wanted to be able to have the chance to compete in the Olympic games, not for the sake of winning but simply for the sake of competing and showing off his merit. However, he found himself challenged not only by his amateur status, but also by the British Olympic Committee who considered his lack of skill to be an embarrassment. Still, he wanted his chance to compete, and found it thanks to a loophole: namely, Great Britain has had no Olympic ski jumpers since the 1920s. Finding his chance, Eddie Edwards turns his focus to becoming a ski jumper as a way to achieve his dream. Of course, he will need some help to get himself into sporting shape. To that end, he recruits Bronson Peary, a former Olympic ski jumper who has since become an alcoholic groundskeeper after falling out of the sport. Though he is skeptical of Eddie’s ability, he does not doubt his passion and agrees to help teach him. Even in the face of last-minute rules changes, Eddie finds himself in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Though he is still harassed by teammates and officials who believe that an amateur like him should not be competing in the Olympics, he sets out to show that it is the passion for the sport that matters and not the award given.

Over all, I had enjoyed this movie. It captures the same sense of charm and wonder as its subject, helped along by a collection of good performances. In particular, Taron Egerton is a great fit as Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. He captures his awkward yet charming manner, seeming like an innocent in a world of cynicism and ego. Along with that, he captures the determination and grit to keep on trying in the face of adversity even when others tell him to drop out of the Olympics. Even when he is physically bruised or broken, he gets back up to pursue his dreams. He is counterbalanced well by Hugh Jackman, who plays Bronson Peary with a cynical wit and world-weary attitude. Of course, he also shows the impact of Eddie’s determination as Bronson’s cynicism starts to fade in the face of such sheer optimism. The aesthetics of the film go along with showcasing that sense of positivity, from cinematography that captures the speed and aerial mastery of ski jumping to a musical score that embraces 1980s synthesizers. It feels like the sort of true-life sports story that might have been made two decades ago alongside the likes of Cool Runnings: perhaps a little cheesy, but good fun on the whole.

Now, I will say that it is a predictable film. Not merely in terms of being based on a true story, but in terms of being a true-life sports film. It has a similar structure to many others like it, which might rub some folks the wrong way. Also, like plenty of other true-life sports films, there are some details that have been changed for the sake of creating more of a narrative. This might also irk some, who believe that the facts should never be changed when a film is based on true events. For me, I do not mind because the film is ultimately good fun. If it had faltered in its approach or methods, then perhaps the usual complaints would hold more sway. However, it is well shot, there are fun performances throughout, and it captures the spirit of optimism that was on display by its subject back in the 1988 Winter Olympics. It may be predictable, but Eddie the Eagle is ultimately strong and engaging “feel good”entertainment, and there is nothing wrong with that.

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