There’s an image we all have of Olympians. It brings to mind dedication, discipline, pure athleticism, passion, even perfection. We tend to think of the Olympics as the pinnacle — a grand pageant of the best in the world competing for honor and glory. The Games captivate the world because they show us wildest dreams being realized, underdogs achieving the impossible, legends burning their name into history. Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards gave us a different kind of Olympic story.
And Eddie The Eagle is the crowd-pleasing biopic that will keep it part of the cultural consciousness for years to come. Taron Egerton stars as the plucky, would-be Olympian who fails at virtually every sport in an effort to fulfill his own Olympic dreams. We watch young Eddie break glasses and windows, but never his spirit as he proclaims time and again a new plan to get to the Olympics. It seems that he may have finally found his path when he stumbles into downhill skiing, but a system that values things Eddie is not in possession of — a certain background, for one — finds a way to block him out.
Just when it seems his dreams are dashed, Eddie comes to a realization — ski jumping. There hasn’t been a British ski jumper in decades if he can only learn the sport and meet the minimal qualifications he can become the entire team. So, off he dashes to an elite training facility in Germany. There he meets the best ski jumpers in the world and the extraordinarily daunting promise that he could well die trying. He also meets an angsty former star of the sport, American, Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) — who seems just the outsider to become his ally. That too seems more a long shot than indefatigable Eddie is prepared to accept.
It’s a story of an unlikely journey, where each challenge and hurdle feels more unbelievable than the last. It’s the kind of story you couldn’t make up if you tried, and that’s why it works. Well, that, and the irresistible charm Egerton instills in Eddie. Even knowing he’s wildly unqualified and could never hope to be a real contender, it’s impossible not to pull for him, to lift him up as a beacon of shining spirit.
Then there’s Jo Hartley, who delights as Eddie’s put-upon, but relentlessly supportive mother. And Jim Broadbent as a British announcer who can’t hide his own unexpected emotional investment in what’s Eddie’s pursuit. With every moment the story advances, with every player it adds it becomes more and more undeniable in its joie de vivre. Call it sentimental if you will, but it’s pretty triumphant.
Eddie The Eagle is the very kind of human interest story that makes the Olympics such a globally unifying event, and in that, it makes for great cinema. If that grand stage has ever appealed to you, you’ll find plenty to love in this ultimate underdog story.