Over the years the uplifting, soul-inspiring sports film has settled into a series of working beats with little ingenuity outside of that. A warm blanket of a film is often the result, unless someone really tries to break the mould (Hi there Unbroken, are you lost? The , door’s behind you.) However, there is one film that has united so many. That has been spoken of so highly even though if you were to look at it from an antiseptic, analytic perspective it’s just a simple formula-filled film that happens to have John Candy in it.
Cool Runnings is the peak of inspirational sport films. The story of four Jamaicans who want to run a bobsled at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary is held deep within the hearts of many generations at this point. Dexter Fletcher had his work cut out by taking the story of British ski jumper Eddie The Eagle, a man famous for being not-exactly prime Olympic material, and turning it into something that’s not Mike Leigh depressing, but not glossing over so much truth that the film sees Eddie raising a gold medal at the end just to make audiences not feel bad.
No, the story of Eddie The Eagle fits perfectly as the British equivalent of Cool Runnings. The determined, if foolish, endeavour of a few who make no assumptions of their ability, but dream large enough to move forward even when their bobsled crashes out, to turn Cool Runnings into a metaphor.
From the jump Eddie The Eagle invites you to ride a wave of shamelessly fun 80s pop hits whilst little Eddie tries to succeed in a variety of sports and Olympic games before he finds his niche. When Taron Egerton appears as Eddie it becomes increasingly clear that he is a tried and true movie star. His ability to play a role deeply, whilst having the right glint in his eye to tell the audience we can have fun, not to take everything so seriously, is a refreshing and energising experience to watch.
This is matched perfectly as Hugh Jackman enters the film, which then coasts no longer on Egerton’s charisma but the chemistry of the two actors, who are a blast. Jackman’s grizzled washed-up coach, Egerton’s wide-eyed and naive dreamer, it’s such simplicity that works wonders for the film.
Fletcher’s directing is superb, a notch up from his previous two features, with some nice flourishes where you can tell the man wants to show off, and a lot of note-perfect humour and drama in any given scene. It benefits hugely from a crackling screenplay that rides cliché with a comprehension of why things work well, rather than ‘here’s something that works, so we’ll throw it in here’. There is also great support from the likes of Keith Allen, Jim Broadbent and even Christopher Walken really liven the film’s world and embrace the tone so well.
There’s no doubt that Eddie The Eagle is a joyful, inspiring film where your fist raises in triumph, but to be so wildly funny too is icing on the cake.
It’ll be hard to find many films as brilliant, deftly paced, tonally perfect and hysterical as Eddie The Eagle, which easily ousts Cool Runnings as the quintessential Olympics movie. Egerton is magnificent, Jackman is at the top of his game and Dexter Fletcher has surpassed his own oeuvre in one leap.
Beyond must-see, this is a film that will have you obsessively talking about tiny moments and grand scenes for months, if not years, after seeing it. Grab your skis, a jumpsuit and a CD compilation of 80s classics, it’ll be all you want to think about after Eddie The Eagle ends.