Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Christopher Walken
Director: Dexter Fletcher
For those of us with an English upbringing of a certain age, Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards will be as instantly recognisable as dodgy shell suits and Mr Blobby. During the Calgary winter Olympics of 1988 and a brief period afterwards, the entire nation seemed obsessed with the thick-lensed Gloucestershire born ski jumper who came last in every discipline he entered. This slightly unexpected movie adaptation fleetingly reveals the man’s childhood before focussing completely on the year leading up to Calgary and Edwards obsession with competing there.
It is probably best to get the main gripe about Eddie the Eagle out in the open straight off; that it is almost entirely fictionalised. A certain level of artistic licence is clearly anticipated for any major motion picture based on true events, but even The Eagle himself has since admitted that only ‘around five percent’ of the movie is truthfully accurate. Eddie’s on-screen coach, washed up ex-prodigal jumper Bronson Peary (Jackson) is entirely fabricated yet it feels as much Peary’s movie as it does Edwards. Even the ending offers more closure to Peary’s narrative than for Eddie himself. This blatant fictionalisation may annoy some who hold dear any nostalgia for the true historical events.
It is however gratifying that the writers haven’t matched the eighties tabloids in painting Edwards as an idiotic Mr Magoo looking simpleton. Although his previous ski jumping history is almost entirely disregarded, his prior achievements as a successful downhill skier are touched on and his determination and focus are a constant source of admiration.
Eddie the Eagle doesn’t wear its feel-good nature on its sleeve as much as it tears its shirt off, tattoos its chest then punches you in the face with it. It’s almost impossible not to smile through the entire movie, so blatant is the ‘man against the world’, ‘working class lad against the elitist system’, ‘son against his dream-crushing father’ battles which are consistently smashed to the forefront. At almost every turn in the story, Edwards is forced to face obstacle after obstacle with little more than an absolute single-mindedness and moderate talent to break through.
Egerton flawlessly matches Edwards facial expressions and beats perfectly and takes an impressive tangent from his recent outings in Kingsman and Legend. Jackson was always going to excel at the ex-genius in the throes of alcoholic ruin, only Wolverine could be considered more miserable, and both Allen and Hartley are spot on as Edward’s parents; Hartley, the doting enthusiastic mother, Allen the down-to-earth hyper-critical working class dad.
Although it’s difficult not to be a little disappointed at the writer’s complete diversion from the truth, it is tough to argue with the result. Eddie the Eagle is a genuinely great feel-good movie which gives a wonderful lesson of how determination and humility can reap astonishing rewards. It leaves you with an utterly pleasing sensation of contentment as you leave the cinema, and that is exactly what it set out to do, factually precise or not.
7 / 10