Tuesday Review – The Aeronauts (2019)

films, reviews

theaeronautsposter5_star_rating_system_3_and_a_half_stars I don’t think I’ll ever reach a level of maturity at which I no longer refer to Eddie Redmayne as Ready Edmayne. It just pleases me on so many levels. But I like Ready. Yes, he’s made some questionable film choices during his time but, for the most part, he’s been bloody brilliant. He’s one of the most reliable and enjoyable parts of the Fantastic Beasts franchise. He deserved all of the praise he got for The Theory of Everything. And he was, well he was in Les Miserables. Of course, I’m not always such a huge fan of his work. The Danish Girl was a step too far for me. I just don’t think his performance was nuanced enough to the performance to come across as sensitively as it needed to be. But I was interested in The Aeronauts. Not only did it bring Ready back together with the wonderful Felicity Jones but I loved the idea of a film being so confined. Two characters, one balloon: it sounded like quite an experience. Of course, I have no background knowledge of James Glaisher but I’ve never let that stop me before. Plus, it gave me another chance to indulge my newfound interest in Himesh Patel. The only good thing to come out of Yesterday was my love for his face.

The Aeronauts reunites Eddie Redmayne with his The Theory of Everything co-star Felicity Jones. It gives them another chance to show their wonderful chemistry, charisma, and charm. All whilst piloting a balloon. It seems like quite a feat but if any pair can do it it’s them. Just as with their last film, the duo has come together to tell a story based on real-life events. The film sees pioneering meteorologist James Glaisher trying to discover more about the Earth’s atmosphere by taking a balloon higher than anyone has ever gone before. Jones plays Amelia Wren, a daredevil balloon pilot with a troubled past. Unlike Glaisher, Wren isn’t a real-life character. Instead, she is an amalgamation of different historical figures. In reality, Glaisher was taken on his journeys by Henry Coxwell but Wren was also inspired by Sophie Blanchard and Margaret Graham.

To discover more about the weather, Wren agrees to take Glaishier higher than any other balloon has ever gone before. Amelia is a showman and delights in rousing the crowd before takeoff. James is much more straightlaced and more concerned about getting his numbers recorded. It’s your classic mismatched double act. But, as the drama amps up in their balloon, we discover that both figures are hiding personal heartaches. Amelia for her deceased husband and James for his father’s declining health. When they find themselves in perilous situations, the unlikely pair must come together to find their way safely back to solid ground.

The moments of the film that take place in the balloon are fantastic and full of adventure. However, the decision was made to keep flashing back to the events that preceded takeoff. I understand why it was more exciting to start the film there but, when compared to the urgent and dramatic scenes above the clouds, the moments back on Earth just seem lacking. This is a film that embodies the Victorian spirit of adventure. We are witnesses two pioneers take on a dangerous task and break records before our very eyes. And the CGI that is used to make this all possible is fantastic. It really does use the technology it has to hand to make something visually beautiful and breathtaking. The entire balloon ride is exhilarating. Just another reason why the rest of the film doesn’t live up.

The balloon ride we see it based on a real flight that saw Glaishier and Coxwell’s balloon really did break the record for flight altitude. They managed to get up to about 11,887 m. I guess it’s a bit of a shame that Coxwell was left out of the film but, I have to say, the inclusion of Amelia Wren was a genius move. Jones is definitely the standout here. You won’t be able to take your eyes off the acrobatic Wren as she leaps her way around her balloon. Redmayne isn’t given the room to have as much fun as Jones. He is very good at playing the steadfast scientist and he does so in his usual Eddie Redmayne way. It’s not a terrible performance but it can’t compete with his co-star. The pair have fantastic chemistry together but the film can’t seem to decide whether it’s telling a love story or not. We have moments of romantic intrigue that are just left hanging which feels a little out of place.

The Aeronauts is a well-made and beautiful film that will delight any viewer. The narrative dips when our stars are on solid ground but there is more than enough drama above the ground to make up for it. There is a great deal of suspense and anxiety-inducing moments that will have you on the edge of your seat. As the pair get higher, the lack of oxygen affects their decision making. Inevitably this leads to trouble and an absolutely nail-biting sequence. This isn’t necessarily the greatest film you’ll see this year but there’s enough in it to keep you engaged.

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