If you need a feel good movie to get you out of the winter doldrums, this movie is just the ticket. Complete with 80s synthesizer music (including of course Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and Hall and Oates ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’) and an 80s Olympic Games (88 in Calgary), this movie is a ride back in time that may leave you cheering. And indeed, it is based on a true story about overcoming great odds. It also illustrates the old adage– ‘it’s hard to soar with the eagles when you live with the turkeys’.
The only person who believed in Eddie Edward’s Olympic Dreams besides Eddie, was his Mum. Oddly enough, this movie, far more than the ‘miracle on ice’ movie about America beating Russia in hockey at Lake Placid, exudes the actual spirit of the Olympics which is NOT about winning at all costs, but about competing in an honorable way and doing one’s personal best. This is what the British mean by ‘being sporting’— competing in a fair and honest way, bearing in mind that it is about the joy of playing, the joy of striving to do your best, and it is not primarily about beating everyone else so you can thump your chest.
The central characters in the movie—Taron Edgerton as Eddie Edwards, Hugh Jackman as Bronson Peary the boozy coach, with a cameo by Christopher Walken as the American coach Warren Sharp are all excellent in their roles, as is Jo Hartley who plays Eddie’s Mum. The movie has no filler, its a thrill ride of emotion and expectations lasting only 1 hour and 45 minutes.
But what of the real story? How in the world did a solitary man, basically without the support of his country’s Olympic team, and without Britain even having a ski jumping team, make it to the Olympics? Determination, bravery, hard work is part of the answer, and not taking no for an answer. What happens when your dreams actually come true— for Eddie had always dreamed since boyhood of being an Olympian despite all the naysayers?
In fact what the movie doesn’t tell you is that he had been a very good downhill skier in 1984 and almost made the British team in that sport. What the movie also did not tell you is that after the 1988 games the rules were changed to make sure an amateur like Eddie couldn’t really compete in the Olympic games— which were supposed to be for amateurs all along. It is ironic that the one person who most embodied the spirit of the Olympic games— doing his best but finishing last in both the 70 and 90 meter ski jump, was the person who forced the hands of the Olympic committees to make sure no rank amateurs would compete again in those sports. Just shameful. In a later irony, as the Wiki article says—“On 13 February 2008, Edwards made a return visit to Calgary to take part in festivities marking the twentieth anniversary of the Games. During his visit, he rode the zip-line at Canada Olympic Park with a member of the Jamaican bobsled team (the ride simulates the speed of a ski-jumper) and led a procession of skiers down the slopes of the park while carrying an Olympic torch.” Who could more represent the spirit of competition rather than the win baby win attitude than the Jamaican bobsled team and Eddie Edwards— I ask you?
This movie, perhaps unintentionally, raises the whole issue of what makes for a good sporting event, never mind a good sports movie. In my view, Eddie Edwards is exactly what ‘being sporting’ should primarily be about. Winning and losing will always happen, but in the end, it really does matter why and how you play game. This movie is an inspiration, and parents should take their children to see it. It has heart and spirit and an honesty to it, even if it is not Oscar material.