Eddie The Eagle (PG)
Running Time: 106 minutes
Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards’ heroic failure on the ski slopes of Calgary at the 1988 Winter Olympics seemed tailor-made for Hollywood from the start.
Like Sylvester Stallone’s valiant underdog in the first Rocky, sometimes the greatness of a story lies within the journey rather than a fist-pumping triumphant ending. Eddie The Eagle sealed a place in sporting infamy when he finished last in the 70m and 90m ski jump, but how he got onto the Olympic slopes in the first place was largely still a mystery.
Dexter Fletcher’s biopic gives Eddie his movie moment in the sun, 17 years after he originally put pen to paper on a film deal. Everyone from Steve Coogan to Rupert Grint flirted with the part before Kingsman’s Taron Egerton wound up donning the coke-bottle specs and dodgy facial hair.
The masterstroke in Fletcher’s film is the casting of Hugh Jackman as Eddie’s fictional coach Bronson Peary, a former skier who walked away from the sport under a cloud and wants a shot at redemption. The X-Men star’s jaded, whisky-guzzling mentor ends up being the perfect foil for Egerton, who’s all jutted out chin and exaggerated nervous tics.
We meet Eddie as a kid, when he’s getting leg braces removed. Weak knees scupper his sporting hopes as a youngster, but his dream of becoming an Olympian won’t die. Encouraged by his mother (Jo Hartley), but repeatedly crushed by his pragmatic father (Keith Allen), Eddie scrapes together cash to get himself out on the slopes of Germany to train. It’s there Jackman’s snow-groomer takes him under his wing and a Karate Kid-style teacher/pupil relationship ensues. Jackman effortlessly wheels between grizzled and tortured, and fired-up and determined.
“No sports movie would be complete without a montage, and Eddie The Eagle has a corker that culminates in Jackman going full When Harry Met Sally”
No sports movie would be complete without a montage, and Eddie The Eagle has a corker that culminates in Jackman going full When Harry Met Sally to demonstrate the importance of mid-air hip movement to Eddie. His mention of Bo Derek, and the Vangelis/Chariots Of Fire-inspired score from Matthew Margeson bring 80s memories flooding back.
If Egerton and Jackman lend the film levity and emotional weight, then Fletcher provides an adrenaline rush with hear-pounding ski jump scenes and classic 80s tunes from Van Halen and Deacon Blue. No doubt drawing on the influence of producer Matthew Vaughn, the man behind crowd-pleasers Kingsman and Kick-Ass.
Eddie The Eagle won’t be winning any Oscars, but it’s an expert example of film feel-goodery that’ll leave you smiling from ear to ear. Every sports film cliché in the book gets thrown up on-screen, but it’s done in such a sincere and good-natured way, it doesn’t really matter. What emerges is one of the best sports movies since Cool Runnings.