I remember seeing the 1988 Winter Olympics and peripherally remembering the journey of Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, a ski jumper from Great Britain. Both Edwards' participation in, and the Brits having a ski jumping representative for the Olympics was a bit of a rarity; kind of like the Jamaicans having a bobsled team for instance. But while the spirit of having amateurs in the Olympics has been phased out in some countries, that it's still alive in others is refreshing. When Edwards' life was made into a film I wasn't sure how it would be received, so I was curious to see how it played out.
Simon Kelton adapted the story into a screenplay that was co-written with Sean Macaulay, with Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill) directing. Edwards dreams of participating in the Olympics from the time in his youth to his growing up as a young man in his twenties, played by Taron Egerton (Kingsman). Edwards decides to pursue ski jumping and, with the help of his coach Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman, The Wolverine), Edwards attempts to qualify for the Calgary Games in 1988, despite the obstruction of the British Olympic delegation, competitors and even his family.
In movies like Eddie the Eagle, you can generally check off the boxes fairly easily; appealing protagonist underdog has to overcome all kinds of hurdles, there may or may not be a central figure serving to get in the way of their desired goal, resolution of goal happens somehow, and there is some sort of sentimental accent in the end. And you get that in copious amounts here. As a kid, Eddie gets teased and it's clear his physical ability is lacking, but his pure optimism of wanting to get to the Olympics, the desire to realize this dream, is downright infectious. He breaks a lot of his prescription eyewear to get to the point where he is closest to this dream, but he remains sure of his goal, be it in the youngster or in Egerton and it's admirable to see.
That's where things, from a storytelling perspective, get a little skewed. Edwards has long said, even before a movie, that the fables about his life weren't completely true, and said last year he was "…warned…" that most of what is in the film isn't accurate, with dramatic/poetic licenses being employed to do so. Edwards meets Peary, who is a fictional character, an American living in Germany and maintaining a ski jump course, living almost in exile from his own demons. That Peary is created isn't a big deal, but the story adopts a set of decisions for him that tends to overshadow why we're here, which is Edwards.
Jackman plays Peary as an arctic Miyagi-type sage to his student with a fair amount of charisma and emotional depth, though Peary's arc reflects the strange decisions taken by the story. As Edwards, Egerton carries the story well, and as Edwards realizes the things that impede his character, he handles this treatment well. And when the story hits the moments of schmaltz that you absolutely know are coming, Egerton handles them well, partly because the movie games for them, partly because the actors in those roles deliver them as you'd expect.
Whether you are familiar with the story of Eddie Edwards or not, Eddie the Eagle attempts to capture both his spirit to realize the dream of the Olympics, combined with the proverbial desire to overcome physical odds to do so, which is something scores of films have attempted before. The film accomplishes many of the mile markers that go with it well, it's the gaps in between that need a little bit of work. I didn't feel more or less aggrieved by the attempt at telling Edwards' life, it was just…there.The Blu-ray:
The AVC-encoded 2.39:1 widescreen high definition transfer befitting Eddie the Eagle looks excellent. The German exterior shots look great, with lots of depth to them, and the ski jumps include image detail in snow flakes and ski clothes. The film opts for yellows and browns in Eddie's childhood before moving towards the white of the snow, and the colors look natural without being oversaturated, the whites aren't running hot. There aren't large moments of haloing or compression and the source material looks superb.The Sound:
There is a moment in the film where the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track announces its presence with authority, and it's a scene where someone goes down the ski jump, set to Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song," where the soundtrack stretches its legs more than most of the other dynamic moments in the film. It's not that the film was quiet to that point, because Eddie falling down or moments of crash or clang have low end presence. But when that moment kicks in the film's audio presentation steps its game up. There are a number of songs in the film (a Hall and Oates training montage among others) and they sound great, and the dialogue and action in the film is well-represented by the disc.Extras:
The big extra on the disc is "Let the Games Begin," a multipart look at the film and the subject in it (46:43). We see the first impressions from the cast and crew on Edwards and the script, and Edwards talks about how the film progressed and the story evolved. To illustrate this, Fletcher recalled seeing an early draft that portrayed Edwards as "…a buffoon," so they rewrote a bit. Egerton discusses how he came to the role and his approach on it, and Edwards recounts his jumping philosophy and wandering around the production. Casting ideas and impressions are recalled (and screen test film of Jackman and Egerton shown), and the ‘relationship' between Peary and Edwards touched on. A look at filming the ski jumps rounds it out and may be the most interesting segment of this look at the film, to be honest. It shows the ways jumps were captured and shot intent. A stills gallery and trailer (2:25) complete the package, along with a standard definition disc.Final Thoughts:
The underlying message of Eddie the Eagle is to do what you can to realize your dream, which we can all relate to and understand. And if the story kept its focus most of the film on this it might have been a really special movie. But the film doesn't go down that road convincingly enough to invest with those characters, focusing on a needless conflict from one of its characters who, at the end of the day, shouldn't have been that consequential to the story. Technically, the disc is excellent and the bonus features decent. But Eddie the Eagle doesn't come close to the underdog films like Rudy or Hoosiers, though it does an admirable job of mimicking the moments from it, that's for sure.