If, when you hear the name Eddie The Eagle you think ‘gurning, speccy bloke who was rubbish at ski jumping in the 1980s’, you need to see this movie. If, when you hear the name Eddie The Eagle you think ‘who?’ you still need to see it.
Because despite the slightly bizarre subject matter – the tale of a man who desperately wants to compete at the winter Olympics, fully aware he’s far from world-class – Dexter Fletcher’s semi-biopic dramedy is likely to be the most purely uplifting film of the year.
Recap for anyone under 35: Eddie Edwards was a slightly odd, very longsighted guy who – against the Olympic Committee’s protests and without proper funding or training – bagged a place at Calgary in 1988, charming spectators and becoming an overnight celeb.
Fresh from his breakout role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Taron Egerton turns strawberry blonde and dons bottle- bottom glasses to transform himself perfectly into the embodiment of Eddie – rubber-faced and full of tics and twitches. Hugh Jackman is Eddie’s fictional coach – a disgraced former ski-jump champ who’s hit the bottle hard. Yes, it’s a terrible cliché. Fletcher’s film is undeniably corny, but also so sincere and tear-inducing that it ultimately doesn’t matter.
Although he’s dealing with an underdog, the director approaches his material with ambition of which Eddie himself would be proud. The vertiginous POV shots from the top of a 70-metre ski jump are dizzying and terrifying, while Jackman’s easy charm and Christopher Walken’s cameo bring a dash of Hollywood glamour.
ETE will inevitably draw comparisons to that other Calgary Olympics tale Cool Runnings (there’s even a gag acknowledging the 1993 hit). But in many ways Eddie is also the spiritual sibling of Rush; like Ron Howard’s film, it’s adrenaline-pumped and packed with men competing at a sport that genuinely might kill them.
Our hero even has a rival/ally in Finnish star ski-jumper Matti Nykänen (Edvin Endre) who in real life won three gold medals that year. Only Eddie doesn’t go in for champagne, fast cars and women; instead, he drinks milk and dotes on his mum.
Reminiscent of vintage Richard Curtis, this is a celebration of Britishness that will no doubt export well. Except it’s not about floppy hair and posh flats in Notting Hill, but a plasterer from Cheltenham who fearlessly refused to be judged by anyone’s standards but his own.