Eddie The Eagle – Aber’s Egerton Shines in High-Flying Biopic

Eddie The Eagle is in Aberystwyth Arts Centre from the 1st – 14th April – starting with a charity screening on the 1st of April with special guests Taron Egerton and director Dexter Fletcher. All proceeds for the night go to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Eddie the eagleI MIGHT NEVER be a good film critic because I can’t do horror. Veterans of the profession like Kermode and Newman cut their teeth on exploitation and gore, and the emergence of innovative new horror like The Babadook and It Follows hasn’t been something I can stomach.

Being uplifted, though, is something I’ll never get tired of. The greatest joy in cinema is to find a story to believe in, characters to cheer for (not too loudly mind, Code of Conduct and all that), to shed tears for in their successes and their failures. There’s no shame.

I’m happy to report Eddie The Eagle is as uplifting as they come, anchored by Aberystwyth’s Taron Egerton in the title role as Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, who became Great Britain’s first and only ski-jumper at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and an overnight hero at home and abroad.

Filmmaker Matthew Vaughan puts his faith in Egerton again, with the director of last year’s intelligent and punchy Kingsman: The Secret Service returning as producer for Eddie the Eagle. After a childhood filled with dreams of Olympic glory, Edwards misses out on a place in the downhill skiing team. Proving resilient, he instead decides to switch to the discipline of ski-jumping, undeterred despite the dangers, and being put down by the Olympic committee and his plasterer father, played in trademark grouchy fashion by Keith Allen. (Whose agent, by the way, I do not envy. When was the last time he played a good guy?)

The real Edwards took to Lake Placid for his training, but Egerton finds himself in Germany, floundering on the smallest jumps against Scandinavian opposition, and gets an icy reception from the jaded, drunken snow plower, former jumper, and eventual mentor Bronson Peary, a fictional addition to Eddie’s story played by Hugh Jackman.

Eddie The Eagle takes the ‘80s setting and fully commits; the action unfolds on blocky colour TVs and the soundtrack is populated with Midge Ure, Heaven 17 and original recordings by Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, with the rest handled by another Vaughan collaborator, Gary Barlow; because when you want to inspire the nation, hire the man who helped write “Rule The World”.

Egerton’s charm and unstoppable drive as Eddie eventually wins Peary over, who agrees to lead him to Calgary in 1988. Just when you know the inevitable is about to happen, there’s a training montage set to Hall & Oates. So Eddie The Eagle, the story of a man who defied expectation at every turn (or jump), is one that sticks to the sporting drama/comedy rulebook; to the narrow bobsled tracks of sentimentality and spirit against all odds, especially when it comes to Peary himself.

Not that that diminishes the film’s accomplishments, though; the two leads play off each other well, the ex-wunderkind of the US jumping team being played a few notes below the angrier, more Canadian Wolverine.

I can’t help but think Jackman is a product of studio anxiety and the need to sell the film over the Atlantic (even if he’s actually Australian), the anxiety that Egerton might not be a strong enough presence to carry the film on his own – the same reason Mark Strong and Colin Firth were so prominent in Kingsman. Like the dog-eat-dog world of Olympic sport, such is the industry. These anxieties, if they exist, are unfounded.

The time will come for Egerton, like it did for his Legend costar Tom Hardy, to be a box-office draw in his own right, and that day might be coming sooner rather than later.

His optimism is infectious, and his depiction of Edwards’ star presence is disarmingly endearing. Like Peary, we’re encouraged to see him recover, despite numerous CG crashes, and fly farther, despite the preposterous moustache that could not have helped the real Edwards be aerodynamic in the jump.

“It’s a world that don’t wanna know ya,” warns Edwards’ dad, who according to Edwards today, was not actually as disapproving of his stunts. “So what’s new?”

The best films make their chraracters successes ours; and this film is doubly impressive for making what was statistically a failure feel golden. Eddie The Eagle is triumphant, and a great end to the Easter break.