Director: Tom Harper
Starring: Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Himesh Patel, Phoebe Fox, Anne Reid, Tim McInnerny, Vincent Perez, Robert Glenister and Tom Courtenay
Inspired by real events, director Tom Harper brings a big balloon to the big screen and combines fact with fiction to dizzying effect in The Aeronauts, a perilous survival adventure set in and above the clouds of London, in 1862.
Ridiculed by the Royal Society he belongs to, real-life meteorologist, James Glaisher (Redmayne), is desperately seeking funding for his high-flying weather predicting project. Convinced his research will save thousands of lives, he needs to find a capable pilot willing to risk it all by lifting them up where they belong.
Cue fictionalised balloonist Amelia Wren (Jones), a pioneering maverick haunted by the death of her husband in a tragic accident two years earlier. Rather than settling for the life a woman in mid-19th century London would be expected to lead, Amelia’s only truly happy in the air and so together they attempt to go higher than anyone’s ever been and put to rest the demons that plague them both. Achieving their goal and even though they’re ill prepared for further ascent, sparks fly as, against Amelia’s wishes, they continue to rise with James’s quest for validation threatening their lives.
Featuring some quite remarkable set pieces, The Aeronauts is at its best in the sky. Effects like those seen in Gravity, and more recently Ad Astra, offer up a spectacularly immersive experience. However, on the ground, many scenes are there simply to provide backstory and do little but make you long to be up, up and away in that beautiful balloon. Flashbacks are used to flesh out the lead characters, but occasionally interrupt the flight plan.
After the critical success of The Theory of Everything, Jones and Redmayne once again prove to be a winning match, successfully employing their natural chemistry to keep the film from flying of course too much. Felicity Jones is superb as the ground-breaking Amelia, a true action hero for 19th century and inspirational role-model for young children everywhere. Eddie Redmayne brings warmth and depth to his stubborn scientist and both skilfully convey emotions ranging from shock and awe to wonder and amazement in the claustrophobic confines of a basket.
The Aeronauts isn’t always plain sailing and has some turbulence along the way, but it looks magnificent and is a thoroughly enjoyable family adventure featuring two soaring performances.
The Aeronauts arrives in UK cinemas on Monday 4th November.
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Film reviewer for Time and Leisure Magazine, The Movie Waffler and We Are Cult.
Former actor (a regular in The Bill) and voiceover artist with Rhubarb Voices.