IT’S a bit of a surprise that’s it’s taken this long for a big-screen biopic of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards to finally come along. And director Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill, Sunshine On Leith) does great justice to his inspiring true story of courage and a plucky sense of never giving up.
We start off with the bespectacled Eddie as a young lad determined to become an Olympic athlete, training all day and sneaking out at night to get the bus all the way there (played at ages 10 and 15 by brothers Tom and Jack Costello, respectively). His father (Keith Allen) thinks it’s all a waste of time, instead insisting that he get a “real” job as a plasterer, while his mother (This Is England’s Jo Hartley) gently encourages him to follow his dreams.
At the age of 22, Eddie (now played by rising star Taron Egerton) finally sets his sights on going to the Winter Olympics and becoming Britain’s best ski jumper. Seen as a bit of a joke among the other expert athletes at the training camp, through sheer persistence Eddie convinces former and now disgraced ski jumper Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) to train him.
There’s nothing in this underdog sports story that’s going to change the world plot-wise – it shares many of the hallmarks of everything from Rocky to Cool Runnings and many more in between. But what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in heart, spirit, charm and a good-natured will towards trying your best and never giving up even in the face of near-certain defeat.
Fletcher’s film hasn’t got a bad bone in its body and with his impressive third directorial outing manages to conjure a great sense of irresistible sweetness, whether it’s in its affections towards its characters, the cracking soundtrack (from Hall & Oates to Deacon Blue) or the effortless chemistry between its expertly chosen cast.
Egerton isn’t exactly the spitting image of the real Eddie Edwards but he nevertheless gives a winning, convincing performance thanks to studied mannerisms and natural likeability. He keeps his performance just the right side of eccentric without stepping over into caricature and exhibits a charming awkwardness that makes sure we’re with him every jump along the way.
There are supporting performances dotted around the film that add to its personality but Jackman is the real brilliant piece of support holding up many of the scenes. He takes the potentially one-note coach character which was imagined for the film and brings to it a nice mix of silliness and pathos.
While the film’s primary purpose is to put a smile on your face while creating a swelling sense of “you can do it”, it also shares some DNA with Ron Howard’s Formula 1 biopic Rush in that it never skimps on the adrenaline rush of the sport itself. Fletcher often utilises intense POV shots as Eddie speeds down and soars off those scarily high slopes; some dodgy CGI during some of the crashing injury scenes aside, it’s very convincing and often exhilarating.
They don’t come along that often but this is a bona fide crowd-pleaser of a movie by a director who knows how to rouse his audience with genuinely affectionate storytelling and characters with whom you relish spending time. The sports biopic recipe may be familiar but that hardly matters when the ingredients are as utterly endearing as this.