In 1988, Eddie Edwards became the very first competitor to represent Great Britain ski-jumping in the Calgary Winter Olympics. Despite finishing dead last in all of his major matches, the unapologetically unathletic Eddie was bestowed the somewhat ironic nickname of "The Eagle", and went on to become a British folk-hero for his lovable sense of determination in the face of complete failure. If it seems like a perfect set-up for an inspirational sports movie, that's because, well, it is. Enter Eddie The Eagle-- a sweet, charming romp which brings Eddie's story to the screen with integrity and panache.
After making a splash with his starring role in last year's Kingsman, the excellent Taron Egerton plays "The Eagle", showing impressive range by seamlessly adapting the bespectacled, slightly chubby nerd's misguided ambitions. After spending the early part of his life striving in vain for athletic achievement as a track-and-fielder, Eddie finally comes upon something he's at least decent at-- downhill skiing. But still, Eddie's yearning goes unanswered until an official oversight finally puts him in the path of greatness. As it turns out, no one is yet representing Britain in the (then relatively new) event of ski-jumping at the Olympics. Sensing an opportunity, Eddie realizes that he need only reach a few minor qualifications in order to make the cut.
Armed only with self-confidence, Eddie makes for the slopes of Germany to train. There, he crosses paths with Bronson Peary, a randy American ex-pat who was once himself a master ski-jumper before alcoholism crushed his dreams. Now working as a lowly snow-plow driver, Peary is impressed by Eddie's devil-may-care attitude and agrees to train the upstart. What follows are all the trappings of any good sports movie: inspirational training montages, emotional bonding between Eddie and Bronson, and, of course, the big finale at the '88 Olympics.
Handled poorly, these could be the trappings of cliche shmaltz, but in the capable hands of director Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine on Leith), the film leans into its '80s setting, using a bombastic synthesizer-score and slightly over-the-top scene staging to undercut some of its more familiar elements with tongue and cheek wit. Helping matters is the genuinely captivating chemistry between young Egerton and a particularly invigorated Jackman, who's underplayed pathos really manages to make you feel for the broken-down Peary. In addition, a series of awesome cameos--including Jim Broadbent as a broadcaster and Christopher Walken as Peary's former mentor-- further enliven the proceedings.
Overall, Eddie The Eagle is equal parts funny, touching, and genuinely inspirational. Though the flick may not reinvent the ski-slope on its way down, it certainly sticks the landing.