LFF 2019: The Aeronauts – Review

Release Date – 4th November 2019, Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 41 minutes, Director – Tom Harper

A scientist (Eddie Redmayne) and a widowed adventurer (Felicity Jones) embark on a hot air balloon trip to go higher than any man has ever gone.

1862, the weather as we know can’t be predicted as it is nowadays. Scientist James Glashier is adamant to change the way that it’s done, by going higher into the sky than any man has ever gone in a hot-air balloon. Assisting him is widowed pilot/ adventurer Amelia Wren. From the very start of the film, where Glashier is worried about setting off on time and achieving his scientific discovery, tracking each and every element of the flight, Wren is more concerned with dressing up in bright colours and heavy make-up to put on a show for the crowd. For much of the film this seems to be as much character detail and development that we get for the 101 minute run-time. Not a great deal changes over the course of the unfolding events.

The events of the film are very much split between the events in the balloon, and the risks of going higher, as air runs out and the balloon itself begins to freeze, and flashbacks to how the central pair met. Much like the two leads there’s very much a contrast between the styles of what sometimes seem like two very different narratives. While the flashbacks seem very conventional – a typical period drama of people wanting to achieve their dream despite the disapproving views of other people – the events in the sky are the highlights of the film. The sense of height, while not always being felt, does have an effect, sometimes feeling similar to the main event in Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk.

There are moments where Jones’ character braves her life and climbs up the side of the balloon where there is a genuinely breathless feel. However, it only creates the wish for more moments like this, more impact and connection with the otherwise predictable and conventional piece. The flashbacks very much come in and disturb the flow of the piece, slowing things down, feeling as if they could be put at the very start of the film and told in a much shorter, more concise way. To briefly establish the context and then allow the main action during the flight to take centre stage, even if that is still coated in a, admittedly slightly thinner, veneer of convention; removing some of the potential thrills, until the final act of the piece when the true scale of threat and danger comes into play.

All this not helped by the lack of connection that the viewer feels with the film. While during the key scenes there’s a slight sense of connection the high levels of convention, and feeling that what’s happening has been seen done a number of times before in a better, more ambitious way.

While the two leads, of course, give good performances there’s a great deal of convention to The Aeronauts that blocks a proper connection and doesn’t quite allow it to fly as high as it might hope.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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