EDDIE THE EAGLE (Lionsgate)
Dir. Dexter Fletcher, Script. Sean Macauley, Simon Kelton
Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman
Plot: Would-be Olympian Eddie Edwards (Egerton) attempts to exploit a loophole to compete as a ski jumper in the Olympics.
It feels rather appropriate that the film adaptation of one of Britain’s greatest feel-good underdog stories is a great feel-good movie. Eddie The Eagle, which we can safely say is the first movie about ski jumping to land commercial success, is a really quite fun sports movie that, while sticking very close to traditional formula (and fictionalising a lot of the narrative to fit that formula), ends up winning you over with its light, comedic approach and its genuineness.
The main element of this genuineness is without doubt Taron Egerton, one of the few men to successfully pronounce the name of this village, who proves that his burst from almost total obscurity into franchise stardom with Kingsman: The Secret Service wasn’t a fluke (although the fact both Kingsman and this film were both produced by Matthew Vaughn’s production company shouldn’t be necessarily overlooked). Egerton takes to the role with the right blend of inner confidence and massive awkwardness to make him a seriously likeable lead. In fact, I would say Egerton has a whiff of John Wayne about him – Wayne was never the greatest technical actor, and this performance is certainly not an Oscar level one from the young Welshman, but both of them have an everyman quality that makes them instantly relatable. You get the sense Egerton is still adapting to being a film star, but he’s fast becoming a strong lead.
The illustrious company he’s had around him won’t have done him any harm in that endeavour; while Oscar-winner and master of walking seductively in a wet tunic Colin Firth gave Egerton the runaround in one of last year’s surprise hits, Hugh Jackman has the job this time round of training Egerton in the film. Jackman gets the chance to play a drunk and dry witted ex-ski jumper in Eddie The Eagle and goes at it pretty well. However, you do get the sense that Jackman is only there to be the ‘coach’ character who gets Eddie to his eventual goal – maybe that’s because Jackman is playing a ‘coach’ character, as the trainer that Jackman plays is non-existent, and fictionalised for the movie. However, Jackman and Egerton share a really good chemistry, so much so that when the eventual end-of-second-act formulaic fall out does happen, I found myself internally begging for it to stop.
That’s the thing that works about Eddie The Eagle – it spends a lot of time making you care. Eddie is a genuinely likeable guy that you can’t help but want to succeed. Sure, the methods by which the screenwriters do this are pretty ham-fisted, but they do the job as well as they need to. I’d say that the screenplay is probably the weak link, but that’s only because it doesn’t feel like its trying anything different, except have a little more of a comedic edge than a usual sports movie might. However, not all the jokes land, and for every gag that does there’s another that passes over, never to be thought of again.
Sunshine on Leith director Dexter Fletcher, working on his biggest project to date by a distance, does pretty well at the helm. The ski-jumping scenes look great, and the costumes and soundtrack are unabashedly, brilliantly 80s (and historically bang-on as well; probably the only things that are but bang-on nevertheless). Sometimes, the plot can stray into the unbelievable, and while the little title card telling us the height of a certain ski jump works well once, having it every single time gives the impression that the filmmakers think their audience is dumb. But all those flaws get drowned out for the most part by a swathe of underdog triumph and Egerton’s cuteness.
BEST WATCHED: You can’t go wrong with this on a family night in – should do the trick for pretty much everyone with a soul.
Taron Egerton’s next films are Billionaire Boys Club, in which he stars with rumoured Han Solo rival Ansel Elgort and Kevin ‘Push You Remorselessly Into A Train’ Spacey, and a voice role in Universal’s upcoming Sing! He’s also slated to appear in the ludicrously titled Robin Hood: Origins, and Kingsman sequel The Golden Circle. Hugh Jackman moves onto The Wolverine 3 (although he might show up in X-Men: Apocalypse), where he will play the character he is synonymous with for the final time.