Eddie (Taron Egerton) has spent his entire life dreaming of becoming an Olympic athlete, despite a complete lack of anything that could even remotely be mistaken for athletic ability. His mum (Jo Hartley) encourages the boy to chase his dreams, while his father wishes the kid would learn a trade – perhaps become a plasterer, like his old man.
Eddie’s pursuit of Olympic glory leads him through various failed attempts at different sports before he finally settles on ski jumping. While Britain has amassed a talented group of downhill skiers, they don’t have a jumper – as long as Eddie can qualify, he’s all but guaranteed a spot at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. But there’s just one little problem: Eddie has never jumped before.
Enter Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a former Olympian whose self-imposed exile from the sport has left him tending the slopes at a German training facility and subsisting almost entirely on whiskey and cigarettes. His curmudgeonly demeanor is no match for Eddie’s exuberance, and when he realizes this kid isn’t getting out of his hair anytime soon, he reluctantly allows himself to become the boy’s coach and mentor.
There are few cinematic formulas more tried and true than the inspirational sports story, where a scrappy underdog overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve a moment of greatness they hardly believed could be possible. As audience members, these types of experiences can be very comforting – we rarely find ourselves disappointed because we always know where these films are taking us, and we’re just there to enjoy the journey.
Eddie the Eagle, based loosely – very loosely – on the life of British ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, is crafted using the same blueprint, but thrives because of the relationship between these two characters. Jackman is gruff, irritable and only slightly less surly than the adamantium-clawed mutant he’s been portraying for the past 16 years, and Egerton is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
The spitting image of the real-life Edwards, he plays the role with a bounce in every step and an unwavering sense of optimism that you can’t help but root for. Egerton turned plenty of heads with a breakout role in last year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, and this performance should help establish him as one of the most promising young talents in the industry.
While the events that transpire in the film are mostly fabricated – Edwards himself has said that “only about 10-15%” is based on his life – director Dexter Fletcher captures precisely what made the real-life skier such an inspiration to so many people. Eddie’s dogged determination and refusal to give up on his dream captured the world’s imagination and gave them someone to cheer, and Fletcher’s film is poised to accomplish the same feat.