Eddie the Eagle (4 stars)

Eddie the Eagle

Taron Egerton flies in this comedic, partly fictionalised biopic of the unlikely ski jumping star

A feel-good dramedy about a British ski jumper who anyone under the age of 30 probably won’t have heard of, let alone remember, Eddie the Eagle sounds like a crash-landing waiting to happen. But the British have always had a soft spot for stories about plucky losers and Dexter Fletcher’s comic biopic nestles neatly alongside the likes of The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Calendar Girls. Starring Kingsman’s Taron Egerton as Eddie, in what can only be described as a transformative performance, the film is a flaming triumph.

Mixing fact with liberal doses of fiction, it recounts how Eddie Edwards, the son of a plasterer (played by Keith Allen), is determined from childhood to make it as an Olympian. Rejected as a downhill skier, he settles on ski jumping – simply because Britain has no other representatives – with dreams of reaching the 1988 Winter Olympics. As anyone old enough will recall, Eddie ‘The Eagle’ finished last, but his sheer delight at having made it that far turned him into a national hero.

In Fletcher’s film, Eddie befriends a boozy, washed-up former ski jumping star Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman, playing a fictional character), whom he persuades to train him after almost killing himself on the 70m jump at a German ski resort. With the incredulous Norwegian and Finnish teams watching, the mentor-pupil dynamic is established in a series of training montages, but it never feels hackneyed, with Egerton lending a delightful innocence to the hapless, goggle-eyed Edwards.

Although there are digs at the upper class twits that run the British Olympic Association, the humour is predominantly gentle, the ski jumping scenes (co-ordinated by stunt legend Vic Armstrong) thrilling and the accumulative effect heart-warming, in a film that consistently confounds expectations. Only the appearance of Christopher Walken, as Peary’s one-time coach, feels ill-at-ease with the bonhomie. Otherwise, Eddie the Eagle takes flight – and stays there.

General release from Fri 1 Apr.

Eddie the Eagle

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • UK / US / Germany
  • 1h 46min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
  • Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken
  • UK release: 1 April 2016

Eddie Edwards (Egerton) is determined to be a ski jumper, but his only hope lies through boozy, washed-up former star Bronson (Jackman). Feelgood dramedy more 'inspired by' than 'based on' the real-life story of a plucky loser, with Egerton delightfully innocent as the hapless Eddie, and some thrilling ski jumping scenes.