The greatest story that we’re able to tell is the story of the unbreakable human spirit. History is full of these stories of struggle and triumph and the historic flight of Amelia Wren and James Glaisher is one of them. THE AERONAUTS reaches for the stars and invites audiences along for a ride!
THE AERONAUTS recounts the remarkable true story of daredevil balloon pilot Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) and meteorologist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne). In 1862, the pair endeavor to fly higher than anyone in history for purposes of advancing knowledge of weather patterns. Beyond breaking flight records and successfully chasing scientific discovery, the journey presents the greatest physical and emotional challenges that either of them will face as this expedition becomes a fight for survival.
The film is comprised of gripping dualities. It is equal parts harrowing and hopeful, as it is equal parts impossibly restricted and infinitely vast. Between the extremes lies a really loving balance that lends itself perfectly to the story. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones bring a magnetic and elegant star power to the leading roles under the direction of Tom Harper. Honestly, it’s their chemistry that makes THE AERONAUTS.
Expectedly, THE AERONAUTS has a way of making the viewer feel small and as if they are being swallowed up by the vastness of the film. The setting of the film is entirely in the dangerous and breathtaking heavens, confined to the minuscule stage of a balloon basket. Redmayne and Jones, for much of the film, are as confined by space and distraction as the characters they portray which means the best of the film must rest strictly on their very capable performances. The pair did a fantastic job.
The setting of the balloon basket is another one of those delicious dualities in the film, it’s a deeply intimate space…while also being a tiny death-trap. It’s intriguing to feel so restricted and helpless and to see that at play in the story. When storms swallow our characters up, that basket and balloon are the only things keeping them from plummeting thousands of feet. Equally, the basket and balloon are both savior and doom as the fickle vehicle is just as large a threat.
A side-effect of viewing THE AERONAUTS is a new-found appreciation for the danger and daring of early scientists. The film strikes a balance of wonderment and terror as the dangers of the sky present themselves. To be honest, THE AERONAUTS is a stressful film to watch and the action sequences leave you breathless and on the edge of your seat.
THE AERONAUTS also stands on the aesthetically pleasing ground of being a very effective period piece. The scientific instruments are fascinating to watch and the costuming is rich and beautiful. Just as the world of the aeronauts was viewed as being full of beauty and bombast, the film version creates an equally opulent experience.
As much praise as can be heaped on the film, it is still an imperfect piece. At times the story feels a bit hazy in its focus. While it’s a remarkable tale of an impossible feat, some moments feel a tad empty. After all, things going well doesn’t exactly make for good cinema. Attempts to beef up the drama of the story sometimes feel a tad forced but, overall, the performances of Jones and Redmayne are enough to carry us through.
If the audience is to take anything away from THE AERONAUTS, it’s the notion that the human spirit is limitless. The film is about conquering fears and reaching one’s full potential, in the face of all doubt and limitations. In THE AERONAUTS, we witness the opportunity to find ourselves by leaving the world and its conventions behind. It’s an enjoyable film and great work from both leading performers that more than earn the audience’s time. THE AERONAUTS sails to Amazon Prime Video on December 20.