Ed­die The Ea­gle

Empire (UK) - - CINEMAS -

APRIL 1 CERT.

106 MINS.

DI­REC­TOR Dex­ter Fletcher CAST taron Eger­ton, Hugh Jack­man, Christo­pher Walken

Based on the true story of Ed­die Ed­wards (Eger­ton), a plumber from Chel­tenham who had dreams of mak­ing it to the Win­ter Olympics, as Great Bri­tain’s first-ever Olympic ski jumper. HEY SAY THAT God loves a trier. If that’s true then Ed­die ‘The Ea­gle’ Ed­wards will be guar­an­teed a seat at Heaven’s top ta­ble when he even­tu­ally skids off his mor­tal coil. At the 1988 Win­ter Olympics, Ed­wards be­came the first per­son ever to rep­re­sent Great Bri­tain in ski jump­ing, which is not to say he was any good at it. It’s no spoiler to say he was not vic­to­ri­ous. Far from it. Yet Ed­wards came home a hero, no medals weigh­ing him down as he was hoisted on the na­tion’s col­lec­tive shoul­der.

Dex­ter Fletcher has turned Ed­wards’ story into a com­edy of soar­ing de­lights, a sports movie where it’s the tak­ing part that gen­uinely counts. Through Wild Bill and Sun­shine On Leith, Fletcher has shown him­self to be a di­rec­tor who likes to hope for a happy end­ing, what­ever gloom might block it from view, which makes him the ideal match for this ma­te­rial.

There is an eas­ier film that could have been made here, one that played Ed­wards’ fail­ures for laughs. He is in­her­ently easy to mock, watch­ing from be­hind bot­tle-thick glasses as ev­ery­one in his field sails be­yond his abil­i­ties. Yet the would-be Olympian is very rarely the butt of the joke, at least for the au­di­ence. He is lauded not be­cause he might win, but be­cause he achieves his dreams by his own hard work.

As a phys­i­cally dis­abled child, Ed­wards doesn’t ac­cept that com­pet­ing in the Olympics could be be­yond him. When he finds a sport that might get him there he doesn’t ac­cept that the UK team doesn’t want him. It’s all much more ex­cit­ing than if he achieved his goals through nat­u­ral tal­ent. Some of the story is fab­ri­cated, like the en­tirely fic­tional coach (Hugh Jack­man) set­tling old scores, but there’s no dam­age done by the half-truths. The point is what Ed­wards did, not who helped him on the way. The in­ven­tions, by de­but screen­writ­ers Sean Ma­caulay and Si­mon Kel­ton, slot hap­pily with the truth, while Fletcher has a ball play­ing with the stan­dards of the sports movie: train­ing mon­tages, bul­ly­ing ri­vals, the lot.

Taron Eger­ton is charm per­son­i­fied as Ed­die, man­ag­ing not to car­i­ca­ture his ec­cen­tric­i­ties, while Jack­man makes a great foil, play­ing about a seven on his scale of gruff ir­ri­ta­tion, if we’re tak­ing Wolver­ine as a ten. They sell their re­la­tion­ship so hard that by time it comes to Ed­die’s big mo­ment, tee­ter­ing at the top of a po­ten­tial fa­tal drop, you’re will­ing him, in­ter­nally scream­ing him, to vic­tory even though you know there’s no chance. As a man he may never have made the podium, but as a movie, Ed­die The Ea­gle flies. OLLY RICHARDS

Doc Brown and Marty would be well jeal­ous.

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