I was 12 years old when Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards became a media sensation here in the UK (and, I guess, worldwide). He was a British ski-jumper, which made him the only British ski-jumper anyone had even heard of in over fifty years, and he was rather inaccurately perceived by many, including the young me, as a bit of a joke. But looking back on that time now, which is what this film is all about (Eddie trying to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics, in Calgary), it’s obvious why the man became a symbol of national pride. He was the typical plucky underdog, the dogged Brit who just wouldn’t let the overwhelming odds stop him from pursuing his dream, and he symbolised the very heart of the Olympic Games:
“The important thing in life is not to triumph but to compete.”
And now here we are, almost twenty years later, with a film about this unlikely hero, featuring Taron Egerton in the lead role and Hugh Jackman as his coach. Jo Hartley and Keith Allen are Eddie’s parents, with the mother being much more supportive than the confused father, and Tim McInnerny represents the establishment that resented seeing someone they felt made a mockery of the ideal Olympian standards. Dexter Fletcher is in the director’s chair, and the script comes from Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton.
Sweet and uplifiting throughout, Eddie The Eagle is the very definition of a feelgood movie, even if it’s ultimately about someone who would be traditionally viewed, in cinematic terms, as a loser. The film circumvents this problem in two ways. First of all, it carries you alongside Eddie and whips you up in his delight whenever he gains another personal victory, despite that personal victory paling in comparison to many other sporting achievements. Second, it takes you up to the very top of the ski jumps, it shows you the impact of any jump that has gone horribly wrong, and it reminds you that, whatever you think of this man and his apparent lack of talent, it takes a hell of a lot of courage to get up there in the first place. And even more to hurtle yourself down there at very high speed.
This is all done with the help of a well-paced, fun script, and Fletcher directs with competence (although it’s very much a no-frills job), but a lot of the appeal of the film stems from the central pairing of Egerton and Jackman. The former may lead his performance with one or two physical quirks too many but he still does a surprisingly great job in the main role (especially coming along just after his turns in Legend and Kingsman: The Secret Service), and Jackman has a lot of fun with what could have easily been a one-note “ex-pro burnout” character. Hartley and Allen are also wonderful during all of their scenes, it has to be said, with the only minor mis-steps being the characters who are made out to be plotting against Eddie in ways that sometimes feel almost cartoonishly nefarious.
There’s a lively soundtrack, a montage or two, and a few scenes that may well make you want to punch the air with glee. As predictable as it all is, which seems almost pointless to say when discussing a movie based on real-life events, it’s also genuinely likable and consistently eager to entertain, much like Eddie The Eagle himself.
Eddie The Eagle is released on August 1st in the digital format, and has a shiny disc to itself on August 8th. extra features include 4 x deleted scenes and a few main featurettes. Surprising as it may seem, none of the deleted scenes or featurettes feel like filler material, with great moments including some screen test footage showing how Jackman and Egerton managed to hit it off so well, a look at how the many ski jumps were filmed, and a discussion of how previous incarnations of the project had mistakenly tried to portray the central character as nothing more than a bit of a buffoon.
DIRECTOR: DEXTER FLETCHER
WRITER: SEAN MACAULAY, SIMON KELTON
STARS: TARON EGERTON, HUGH JACKMAN, JO HARTLEY, KEITH ALLEN, TIM MCINNERNY
RUNTIME: 106 MINS APPROX