With hindsight, it’s a surprise Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards’ rise to fame wasn’t made into a film sooner. Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) dons thick-rimmed glasses and a permanent gurn as the plucky Eddie, a young man obsessed with being an Olympian. He exploits a loophole in the rules to enter the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary as a ski jumper, despite little experience in the sport. He turns to Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a drunken former champion, to train him for what would become Olympic history.
On the face of it, Dexter Fletcher’s film shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is. Essentially a work of fiction (characters and events have been added or cut to amp up the drama), it’s never far from the “against-all-odds” cliches that have been the trademark of every sports saga since Rocky. However, much like the real Edwards, it overcomes its flaws by being utterly charming. The film has a lot of laughs but also manages to be very earnest in its approach, hammering home the notion of an ordinary man doing something extraordinary. Not a single heart-string is left un-tugged as our modest hero stiffens his resolve in the face of sneering (not to mention very stereotypical) European competitors.
Key to the appeal is Egerton, capturing Edwards perfectly and creating an adorably upbeat, determined protagonist. He sparks perfectly with Jackman, who is happy to play the brash straight man. The pair have a genuine chemistry, helped by a supporting cast that includes a typically baffling appearance from Christopher Walken.
The underdog story is a formula that has worked for countless Hollywood movies, and Eddie The Eagle is a fine example of the breed. There are plenty of bumps along the way, but the chemistry of the leads and sincerity of the script makes the inevitable “final jump” sequence a genuinely emotional moment.