Eddie The Eagle
APRIL 1 CERT.
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.