Where Kingsman announced the arrival of new talent Taron Egerton, Eddie the Eagle cements his place as a bonafide movie star. This is the infectiously positive story of Olympic ski jumper, Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards, a man who always dreamed of being an Olympian and was going to stop at nothing to achieve his dream. In this adaptation which is inspired by the true story, Taron Egerton portrays Eddie and Hugh Jackman stars as Bronson Peary – a fictional coach who helps Eddie achieve his dream.
If there’s one thing that Eddie the Eagle does perfectly, it’s embodying the mood of the inspirational sports films of the late eighties and early nineties wonderfully. Most notably, it draws on the same charm as the wonderful Cool Runnings which took place at the same 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and is even given an affectionate nod in one scene. Eddie the Eagle oozes charm and sweetness, something that is helped along by the era appropriate score by Matthew Margeson.
As this is a film that is about skiing and learning to ski, there is naturally a lot of skiing as well as the required training montages. The skiing is greatly displayed with a combination of real ski jumps and CGI jumps – both of which help show just how dangerous and exhilarating these massive jumps can be. Shots from Eddie’s perspective as he goes racing down the slope add some tension, but mostly further his loveable personality as someone with no experience attaining their dreams. The montages are light hearted and provide most of the films laughs – one particular training sequence references Bo Derek, giving Hugh Jackman a great scene stealing moment.
Naturally, Hugh Jackman is great as the pseudo-father figure coach – almost like his Charlie Kenton character in the underrated Real Steel. You’re invested in his journey from failed Olympian turned alcoholic into a successful coach just as much as Eddie’s journey. Sure, one could complain that it’s not entirely faithful to the true story with the inclusion of a conjured up character, but arguably the point here is to emulate the joy and happiness around the underdog figure that is ‘Eddie the Eagle’ – something the film delivers in spades.
But, really, this is Taron Egerton’s film through and through. The film simply wouldn’t work as well without him in it. He fills the screen with such a great energy that even with some failings, the film is a pure joy to watch. Heck, the final moments even managed to squeeze a tear out of this cynic. Portraying naivety is difficult as it can often come across as stupidity, but Egerton straddles that line wonderfully. Eddie eagerly follows his dreams, and always keeps his end goal in mind, however, when it looks like that dream is not achievable, he’s realistic in retiring those dreams. That is, until that burning desire is reignited again.
Eddie’s innocence and naivety is amplified by the huge glasses he wears – giving Egerton a larger, wide eyed look that makes him just that little bit more endearing. Add in his affection for milk, and you’ve got a bunch of quirks that under a less assured actor, would not work. The era-specific costume designs adds an element of daggyness to Eddie – especially when he slaps on some puce green spandex to ski down the slopes. The costumes also help with one of the films more entertaining moments as Jackman makes his appearance for the first time. In slow motion he steps out his vehicle, and in his tight jeans the camera lingers on his rear for just a moment. It’s hilarious and something that only Hugh Jackman could pull off in style.
Understandably in stories like this, there needs to be a voice of reason, someone to try bring Eddie back down to earth and into reality – that role is filled by Eddie’s Dad who tries to get Eddie to come work with him as a plasterer. While this character could come off as annoying, he’s still got a lot of heart. In one scene, he mentions to Eddie about a particular plastering job he’s working on that he himself dreams as being his ‘piece de resistance’ – showing that no matter what your dream, no matter how silly it may sound, it’s something you should never give up on.
If there is one major complaint it is the portrayal of the British Olympic Committee who initially decide that Eddie is not a worthy skier, and then later continually disapprove of his attempts to become an Olympian. Of course, in any underdog story there needs to be challenges to overcome – unfortunately, the Olympic Committee here come across a little too villainous, more like shonky caricatures than anything else.
At the end of the day, Eddie the Eagle is a purely entertaining film that will leave a huge smile on your face. It’s full of heart and has some wonderfully comedic moments that make it a joy to watch. If Taron Egerton isn’t a household name after this and Kingsman, then he sure will be soon.
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley
Writers: Sean Macaulay, Simon Kelton