‘The Aeronauts’ Starring Felicity Jones And Eddie Redmayne, A Review

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Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne at the UK Premiere of “The Aeronauts” during the 63rd BFI London … [+]

David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage

The Aeronauts sees Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne reunited for the first time since The Theory of Everything, for which Redmayne won an Oscar, under the direction of Tom Harper. The film had its European premiere at the London Film Festival on Monday night, with the two leading actors and director attending.

The film tells the story of a scientist, played by Eddie Redmayne, and a hot-air balloonist, played by Felicity Jones, who go on a journey up to the highest point in the sky man had ever gone in 1862 Victorian England. The whole film is the air-balloon’s journey in the sky, as James Glaisher and Amelia Wren break the record, but of course it’s not an easy trip up, as that would have made a rather boring film. The drama derives from the moment the balloon has ascended so far up that everything freezes. The scientific research becomes a life-threatening venture.

Harper does not just simply relate the voyage, but manages to reveal the circumstances that led up to the two protagonists flying on that contraption, through the use of numerous flashbacks. The very first images of the film are in fact flashbacks, a nightmarish situation that Amelia went through with her husband and the outcome of which is revealed much later in the film. Harper manages in this way to create an adventure film that is riveting and full of suspense.

The flashbacks reveal who the protagonists are. Glaisher is a scientist, a meteorologist, who is laughed at by his scientific community because he believes the weather can be predicted. Seeing an air-balloon in the sky, he decides that he must fly one to conduct experiments to determine whether what he believes about the weather is true. He finds Amelia Wren to help him navigate the balloon. She and her husband Pierre had become famous for their hot-air balloon trips. Still grieving two years after the death of her husband, who died tragically in an accident with the balloon, Amelia is at first reluctant to help James with his research. These flashbacks create an emotional connection with both characters which would otherwise have been missing from the film. Amelia must overcome her grief, while James must prove himself to his colleagues and his parents.

Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in ‘The Aeronauts’

Amazon Studios

The idea of the film originated from Richard Holmes’ book Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air, a 19th-century account of James Glaisher’s ascent with an air balloon with Henry Coxwell that took them to a record-breaking height of 37,000 feet, an exploit which also helped the understanding that the weather can be forecast.

For Harper’s film, Coxwell was replaced by a female character, a balloonist and widow of a balloonist called Amelia Wren. Her character, in fact, is given a prominent role in this film. It is she who is the pilot and who will perform all the heroics in the film. This is a nice shift to the conventional dynamics usually put in place in such films, in which women are usually just the male character’s love interest. In this film, the female character is in control. This is what makes The Aeronauts so interesting, besides its stunning visuals.

The special effects in this film are amazing. The recreation of Victorian London from the balloon’s bird’s-eye view is incredible as are the moments of dramatic tension when Wren must climb the icy balloon to save both of their lives. However, while the special effects make the whole story very believable, the fact that the two characters are not wearing any gloves, unfortunately, makes it less so.

Amazon Studios financed the project with just under $40 million. Back in July, the Studio announced that the film will have a limited theatrical release before it becomes available worldwide on their streaming service from December 20, perfect timing for the Christmas holidays, which will no doubt ensure the film’s popularity. In the U.K., the film will be released into cinemas on November 6.