EDDIE THE EAGLE review by Mark Walters – Egerton & Jackman soar in this underdog story

EDDIE THE EAGLE review by Mark Walters – Egerton & Jackman soar in this underdog story


Hollywood definitely loves the inspirational sports film, and most of the time these types of productions are safe bets for box office bucks. But some of the harder ones to get right are the underdog stories – tales where a determined young man or woman defies the odds to compete with more accomplished athletes, and rises to the seemingly impossible challenges most would never dare attempt. These types of movies can sometimes fail horribly, by either overdoing the saccharine embellishments in the script, or just making the lead character a little too good to where the audience can’t relate. Thankfully, EDDIE THE EAGLE doesn’t suffer any of those shortcomings, and just two months into the year becomes a showcase piece for stars Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton. This is Director Dexter Fletcher’s third film behind the camera (he’s also an accomplished actor), and it may just be his best yet.

We open in the 1970s with a little UK boy named Eddie Edwards carrying out a ritual his parents know all too well. Eddie wants to leave home and join the Olympics. His mom (Jo Hartley) finds his misguided passion sweet, while his dad (Keith Allen) feels put out having to go pick him up from the station in his van fighting the cold weather. This begins a running pattern in the story where Eddie (Taron Egerton) wants to achieve his dream, and is consistently met with encouragement from his mother and stark criticism from his father. In the 80s he even gets the chance to ski with the British team, but is a little too awkward and embarrassing for the committee’s tastes. Eddie eventually sets his sights on ski jumping, for which the UK has no one to compete with. While his heart is in the right place, his skills are lacking. Finding a bar to crash in while in Germany, he tries again and again to do the simplest of jumps, only to fail repeatedly. Enter Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), an alcoholic American snow plow driver who used to be a respected Olympic ski jumper. Peary reluctantly agrees to train Eddie on how to jump, and before long it looks like they may actually have a shot at achieving the young man’s dream. But the British Olympic committee doesn’t share their enthusiasm, and as the 1988 Winter Olympic Games approach time may be running out for this unlikely duo.

In some ways EDDIE THE EAGLE feels like every inspirational sports film you’ve ever seen, and yet it finds its own voice within the familiar territory. The 1988 time frame is utilized well with a foot-tapping soundtrack filled with 80s rock hits (like Hall & Oates or Frankie Goes to Hollywood), and even the exemplary score by Matthew Margeson (KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE) has an effective throwback touch, in a movie that captures the look and sound of an era without ever feeling like a gimmick. Dexter Fletcher comes from the family of directors like Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn (the latter produced this film), and their snazzy and slick style carries over in his work here. This is absolutely Fletcher’s most accessible work to date, and should put him on the map as an A-list man behind the camera moving forward.

Hugh Jackman finds several right beats when playing Peary, a guy who is inherently not that nice, but still has a warmth within his intentions. This is a man who was almost there, and experienced a few great moments, but never had that big finish. He sees in Eddie the drive for just one singular moment, and he knows he can help him obtain that… but he’s also very aware of the incredible odds against them. It’s a great role for the seasoned actor, and never feels schmaltzy or forced. His bottled enthusiasm comes out in all the right moments, and some scenes in particular are nothing short of fantastic. Taron Egerton also shines as Eddie, finding the right balance of awkward underdog and determined athlete. For his role to work, we as an audience have to look at him and not think he’s capable of his dream, yet still want to root for him to try. Egerton’s reading of the character is warm and sincere, and we can see a little of ourselves in him during just about any situation. After seeing him play the tough guy badass in KINGSMAN and then transform into the nerdy fighter that is Eddie Edwards, it’s really quite impressive to behold. The chemistry between Taron and Hugh is movie perfection, growing as we watch it and hitting all the right beats. Kudos also to the lovely Jo Hartley as Eddie’s proud mother, always pushing him to go for it, and the perfectly-cast Keith Allen as the put-upon father who wishes his son would leave behind these childish dreams. They are some of the best “film parents” to come along in years, and like other aspects in the movie, we find ways to easily relate to them. Iris Berben is also excellent as the bar owner who takes Eddie in while he’s in Germany – she’s a sort of horny looker just a little past her prime, but it’s a fun character and used sparingly so as not to be overdone.

The characters (as they were) really make this film, mostly because they’re handled so well and feel so rich. Even brooding Norwegian competitors and their coach are executed superbly in their characterization, played as both intimidating and somewhat funny in their own way. With the exception of some adult humor scenes that never go too far, EDDIE THE EAGLE could almost be considered a great family film that isn’t brought down by the frequent family film trappings. The end result is heartfelt and moving, and the kind of production that will have you cheering, even in moments where nothing “big” has happened yet. This film is quite simply an engaging triumph the everyone involved should be proud of. Don’t let the February release date fool you, this is absolutely one of the best of the young year.

EDDIE THE EAGLE opens February 26, 2016

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.