Eddie The Eagle is a slight but lovely British comedy
From Eddie the Eagle to The Hateful Eight, Esther reviews the week in movies and DVD.
EDDIE THE EAGLE (12)
A LIKEABLE Taron Egerton brings us up in the air — and frequently crashing back to earth — in this slight but oh-so-lovely British dramedy.
The film may have its storytelling flaws but its utter lack of cynicism makes it feel like the perfect vehicle for the character whose story it’s telling.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, the straight-up sports biopic tells the extraordinary story of Eddie Edwards, a wannabe Olympian who dreamed of competing at a Games and eventually came across a loophole that enabled him to do just that.
After narrowly missing out on qualification for the Great Britain team as a downhill skier in the 1984 Winter Olympics, Edwards regrouped and made a fascinating discovery.
Finding that qualification rules in the ski-jumping contest were out of date, and that there were no British ski-jumpers to compete against him for a place, Edwards took up the sport. In little over a year, he qualified for the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary — despite the best efforts of both his father and certain figures within the British squad.
In doing so, he embodied the very spirit of the Games, though many felt that his mere involvement sullied the sport.
Fletcher’s film never really deviates from the safe trajectory that is the underdog sports story and we’re rarely breaking new ground here.
But where it does succeed is in the characterisation of Edwards himself, showing him by turns to be obsessive as well as
cheerful, ambitious as well as optimistic and sometimes — mostly from the viewpoint of the top of the latest steepest slope he takes on — downright crazy.
Egerton is simply terrific as the skier, embodying all of his nervous quirks without ever feeling manipulative.
Hugh Jackman, meanwhile, is great at being Hugh Jackman as Edwards’ initially reluctant, initially despondent, heavy-drinking coach, former skiing great Bronson Peary.
And the great Christopher Walken steals the few scenes he’s in as another ski-jumping genius who became disillusioned with Peary. He reminds us what a great and eccentric screen presence he is, even in a small role.
By turns clichéd and innovative, Eddie the Eagle is the quirkiest of films. But it truly captures the spirit of its subject matter, and by the time he reaches his biggest and scariest challenge, it’s impossible not to find yourself rooting for him.
The Stars: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley, Christopher Walken.
The Story: The adventures of the UK’s unlikely ski-jumper.
IRISH filmmaker Rebecca Daly’s second feature is a powerful, slow-burning drama, though the use of imagery feels a bit pointed and overcooked at times.
Still, Daly shows herself to be an actors’ director, getting the very best out of her cast.
Australian actress Rachel Griffiths is Margaret, a woman who seems disconnected from the world.
Her enigmatic personality is evident from the get-go, she volunteers in a charity shop but otherwise avoids human engagement.
Even when she’s contacted by her ex-husband to tell her her teenage son has gone missing, she’s reluctant to voice a response or even an emotion.
That’s because, we later learn, Margaret and her boy have been estranged for many years for reasons that are initially unclear.
It’s around this time that she discovers Joe (Keoghan) lying in the gutter near her home. Though it seems apparent that she’s a woman struggling with mothering instincts she feels a need to protect him and take him in.
The movie focuses on their gradual bond — though Joe has a great many problems of his own — and how this impacts on Margaret’s unresolved past and troubled relationships.
Their relationship becomes very complicated but is always sensitively handled even when the story goes into darker territory.
Griffiths is always watchable in an unstated performance but is it Keoghan who is the sensation here.
By turns wily, ruthless and vulnerable, his Joe keeps your attention throughout and his performance will have you guessing about his motivations until the
very end. There’s much, much more to this rising Irish star than Love/Hate cat killer.
The Stars: Rachel Griffiths, Barry Keoghan, Michael McElhatton
The Story: A woman forms a bond with a homeless boy following the death of her estranged son.
The Verdict: An interesting observation on human nature.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT (18)
EVEN FOR THE DIEHARD Quentin Tarantino fan, his eighth movie must rank as a disappointment. Packed with the flaws that have sometimes been features of his films — the grandiose style, the iffy pacing — and lacking the dialogue or inventiveness that made much of his work special, it feels like a knock-off of one of his movies.
The violence, when it comes, is graphic and relentless, perhaps more so than in any of his films.
We’re in the bleak midwinter in Wyoming, not long after the brutal Civil War, where grudges are still held and a sense of lawlessness abides.
Bountyhunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) has hired a stagecoach to transport his big prize, criminal gang member Daisy Domergue to the town of Red Rock, where she is to be tried and hanged. But a storm’s coming and along the way they take on two lone travellers — Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson), a soldier turned bounty hunter, and
Chris Mannix, (Walton Goggins) a smart-talking local who claims he’s about to take up a job as sheriff of Red Rock.
As the storm hits, they take refuge in Minnie’s, an inn where there’s no sign of the owner but a manager and three other mysterious residents are in situ. It’s not long before violence looms.
None of the characters felt like more than cut-outs from baddie central casting, while the film really struggles to find any sort of meaning.
The lack of dramatic tension really exposes the film’s length (three hours including a ten-minute intermission). And while it looks as stunning as you’d expect from this director’s work, and Ennio Morricone’s excellent score adds a sense of atmosphere, the finale feels as pointless as it is violent.