Good sports films are often about people with talent achieving their dreams. Great sports films are often about people with barely enough talent trying to achieve their dreams with everything they can, even if the odds are impossible. There’s an insatiable, wholesome delight in watching as someone pushes against every adversity to reach their outrageous goal, and it’s resulted in some remarkable films, from 'Rocky' (1976) to 'Chariots of Fire' (1981) to 'Friday Night Lights' (2004). While 'Eddie the Eagle', the latest film of this kind to hit our screens, might not meet the artistic calibre of such classics, that doesn’t take away from its tremendous impact. In fact, amidst all the sombre and pompous blockbusters we’ve been saddled with this year, this gorgeous little crowd-pleaser is a stupendous breath of fresh air.
The film follows the story of Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), who in 1988 pursued his dream to participate in the Calgary Winter Olympics. Overlooked by everyone because of his odd looks and demeanour, he settles on the incredibly specific sport of ski-jumping, something he has absolutely no experience in and a sport that is enormously dangerous. Recruiting retired Olympian ski-jumper and drunkard Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) as his coach, Eddie sets about preparing himself to both qualify for and participate in the games - something that might take a miracle to achieve.
‘Eddie the Eagle’ is the epitome of a feel-good film, but what makes it such a thoroughly satisfying and emotional experience is how it both embraces and celebrates this. Its clarity of purpose, honouring the determination and legacy of Eddie Edwards, permeates through every layer of the film, from the irreverent and heartfelt screenplay from Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton to the wonderfully playful direction from Dexter Fletcher. There’s so much humour and life in this film that you can’t help being swept up in Eddie’s story, rooting for him and the minor victories in his path. Eddie isn’t in any way an impressive athlete, but the simplicity of his dream (being an Olympian) means that any small success lands with enormous impact. The film revels in its 80s details and textures, Mike Gunn’s production design beautifully evoking such a specific time and place, but Fletcher injects the film with so much energy that, rather than coming across as nothing more than a period piece, it feels immediate and contemporary. It’s also bolstered by a terrific electronic score by Matthew Margeson that bubbles with so much optimism that you feel like you might take off from your seat.
The success of the film though rests on the magnetic central performance from Taron Egerton. After knocking it out of the park with ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’, he cements himself as a talent to watch here with a performance full of so much heart and detail. He sparkles every moment he’s on screen thanks to a combination of his natural charisma and his dedication to the idiosyncrasies of Eddie, and if his work on this film proves anything, it’s that a career-defining performance is probably just around the corner for Egerton. He’s complemented beautifully by the cantankerous and endearing performance from Jackman as Bronson, a character who has lost his purpose and finds a new one in the simplicity and clarity of Eddie’s. Their buddy relationship is genuine and terrific, the two making an instantly loveable team.
The success of the film rests on the magnetic central performance from Taron Egerton.
To be honest, I couldn’t have loved ‘Eddie the Eagle’ more. It had me laughing and crying and cheering all at once, and it left me with an enormous smile on my face. Feels this good are so rare now with the push for gritty realism, so to come across one this wonderful feels like a kind of revelation, and a reminder that cinema can be like this. For all its faults and its sentimentality, ‘Eddie the Eagle’ is a joy from beginning to end, and one of my favourite films of the year.
PICTURE & SOUND
‘Eddie the Eagle’ comes up a treat on Blu-ray with a sunny, sparkling 1080p 2.39:1 transfer. Detail throughout is excellent, but what really sticks out are the vibrant colours. The film was graded with a kind of yellow hue to give it a sense of 80s nostalgia, and the result is a film that bursts with colour, further amplifying the feel-good tone. The video is complemented by a rich DTS-HD MA 7.1 track that really kicks into gear during the ski-jumping sequences. There’s a surprising amount of surround punch to it, making for a more immersive experience than you would expect.
The highlight of the set is the excellent documentary ‘Let the Games Begin: Soaring with Eddie the Eagle’ (46:43), which covers the film right from its early development in the early 2000s to the final film itself. Interviews include not just the cast and crew, but Edwards himself, and everyone speaks at length about their determination to honour the story emotionally rather than reducing it to a buffoonish comedy. The only other extras include an Image Gallery and the Theatrical Trailer (2:25).
’Eddie the Eagle’ is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.