If I’m able to check out a film about something completely or nearly new to me, it’s good to do without reading about the subject matter which could influence the experience. With The Aeronauts, a story partly compiled from a real hot air balloon journey, it felt especially wise. There’s a significant personnel change that’s done for this movie adaptation which led to be one of the better parts of it. As the balloon rises, so does the excitement about the film.
It’s always a treat if the story builds first and ends with a successful payoff in the second half. That’s what happens here as we’re introduced first to the main characters, scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) and pilot Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones), and then at hour-or-so in we get to the action and thrills. Their continuous rise to the skies in the name of science is surrounded by some beautiful VFX work and sound design. During these times of CGI-blockbusters it’s nice to have a classic adventure feature that uses that technology as a background and not as an attention grabber. A reminder that there’s a need for both, depending on the story in hand. It all adds up to Jones’ great performance in the latter half.
Any of the flashbacks or secondary location scenes happening on the ground don’t really work in the context of the whole thing. Everything happening in that little basket and flashbacks referencing previous flights are the interesting part of the film. Cuts to Amelia’s family members felt needless as the plot doesn’t really involve them at all. The 100 minute runtime could’ve easily been a tighter 85 or 90 or we could’ve spent even more time in the basket with James and Amelia, the actors had good chemistry and characters’ ideologies clash in nice fashion. This is where not being all up in arms about historical accuracy really helps.
Smileys: Felicity Jones, VFX, sound
Frowneys: Structure, editing
Biggest dog scare of film history also present? Possibly.