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domingo, 27 de março de 2016

Eddie the Eagle flies again - review

A wonderfully silly Hugh Jackman and flying scenes more thrilling than anything in Batman V Superman help Dexter Fletcher's Olympic skiing biopic soar
Forget caped crusaders and men of steel for a minute. Watch a Dexter Fletcher film and you’ll really believe a man can fly.
The best scene in Wild Bill, Fletcher’s quietly beautiful 2011 directorial debut, involved a man and his boy throwing a paper aeroplane from the balcony of their tower block flat. After the plane leaves their grip, the camera tracks its flight for 20 seconds – it shoots out into the tawny sky, then stalls, swoops, circles back on itself, and just keeps going and going, further than either father or son could have guessed.
It’s a moment of pure antigravity in an otherwise stoically grounded film. Five years on from that glorious shot, here’s its feature-length spiritual sequel.
Fletcher’s new film is a biopic of Michael 'Eddie' Edwards, the Olympian ski-jumper who in the late 1980s became an emblem of a very British kind of earnest haplessness, after finishing last in the 70m and 90m events at the Calgary Winter Olympics. He was the perfect hero for a nation that, until recently, spent its Friday nights in front of It’s a Knockout – and Fletcher’s film, scripted by first-time writers Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton, does make the shrewd connection between the two.
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Eddie is played by the Kingsman actor Taron Egerton in a very studied performance that replicates Edwards’s clenched smile, jutting chin and wobble-board eyebrows perhaps a little too faithfully. It’s well-meant, but causes the character to continually veer between endearing naif and pantomime dope, and you can sense the gurning spectre of Ricky Gervais’s Derek lurking in the corner at all times.
That’s why Hugh Jackman is so welcome as Eddie’s reluctant, whisky-swilling coach, Bronson Peary: Jackman’s natural movie-star effortlessness often serves as an antidote to Egerton’s capital-A acting. There is a terrifically funny scene in which Jackman’s character likens ski-jumping to making love to Bo Derek, before mentally walking through the various emotions with a throwaway silliness only an A-lister with nothing to lose could pull off.
The real Eddie the Eagle
The real Eddie the EagleCredit: Rex/Rex Features
Christopher Walken also makes a brief and fantastically odd appearance as Bronson’s own (long-retired) coach, bringing his trademark stony gravitas to the world of winter sports.
The plot follows Eddie from the streets of Cheltenham to a Bavarian training camp and thence to Calgary, while his bemused parents, sweetly played by Jo Hartley and Keith Allen, take varying degrees of interest from the family sofa. Throughout, Fletcher grinningly plays up to the underdog-sportsman-movie tradition he’s working in, referencing both Chariots of Fire (via Matthew Margeson’s juicy, Vangelis-channelling score) and Jon Turteltaub’s Cool Runnings – another unlikely true story that sprung from the 1988 Games.
It makes sense of Edwards’ unlikely stardom and its connection to the class tensions that doomed him to being a sporting outsider in broad but effective strokes. But it never quite gets a handle on his drive, and you leave the cinema still unsure what the Eagle’s flights actually stood for or where they took him, other than the bottoms of ski-slopes and, occasionally, hospital.
Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman in Eddie The Eagle
Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman in Eddie The EagleCredit: Larry Horricks
Still, the jumps themselves are glorious: Fletcher has a brilliantly attuned sixth sense for what his audience wants to see at any given millisecond, and Eddie’s final flight, from the 90-foot ramp at Calgary, is a mini-masterpiece of intuitive cutting.
We get the close-up, the wide shot, the point-of-view, the spectators’ reactions, the glimpse of the folks at home – all scrupulously timed and building to the most obvious-in-retrospect but perfectly detonated music cue imaginable.
Perhaps the moral of Edwards’ story is no more complicated than that: you might as well jump.
Eddie the Eagle is released in UK cinemas on April 1, with previews from Easter Monday

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