The Aeronauts Review
by E. Stevens
** 2 Stars
‘Sadly, I was disappointed, as the plot just did not interest me, and I felt that the characters of Wren and Glaisher could have progressed so much more.’
Director: Tom Harper
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Himesh Patel & Tom Courtenay
Plot Synopsis: In Victorian London, young scientist James Glaisher believes he has found a way to predict the coming weather. To prove his theory, he must mount a balloon and fly higher than anyone in history. However, he cannot do it alone. Joined by young widow Amelia Wren, he embarks on a perilous journey that takes them both to the very edge of the world they know.
The Aeronauts is an Amazon original film based on true events, when in 1862, British aeronauts James Glaisher and Henry Coxwell broke the world flight altitude record in their balloon. Glaisher appears in the film, however Coxwell has been replaced by a fictional character, Amelia Wren. When I first heard about this story, I was intrigued and thought this could be a new favourite adventure film. It was based on true events, which I usually enjoy, the characters seemed interesting and the still images from the movie looked beautiful. Sadly, I was disappointed, as the plot just did not interest me, and I felt that the characters of Wren and Glaisher could have progressed so much more.
Our story begins in London, 1862, with a young scientist named James Glaisher, who believes that by ascending beyond the clouds in a balloon, he can prove his theory that the weather can be predicted by science. When he presents his theory to the Royal Society, in an attempt to receive funding for a balloon, he is ridiculed. However, when he runs into Amelia Wren, a widowed young pilot traumatised by her last voyage in a balloon, he persuades her to accompany him on his journey.
Although I was, on the whole, disappointed with this film, the parts I genuinely enjoyed were the jumps in time that gradually revealed Amelia’s secretive past. This technique added much more depth to the backstories of both Amelia and James. In particular, I thought that the moment where the truth about Pierre (Amelia’s late husband) is revealed to the audience was timed perfectly to coincide with one of the climaxes of the adventure.
While director Tom Harper executes the flashbacks in this film flawlessly, I unfortunately felt that the characters of Amelia and James in the main time period could have been developed far more. At the beginning of the film, they are almost strangers, but their relationship just doesn’t grow enough throughout the story for their friendship at the end to feel genuine or strong. Another part of the movie I felt should not have been included was James’s confession that he did not bring warm oilskins on the voyage. As the temperature drops well below freezing at the altitude the balloon was flying at (which the movie plainly states), it makes the fact that James is alive at such extreme conditions far too unrealistic.
Despite this, when I first watched this film, I was taken aback by the stunning visuals and realistic special effects. Some of the best shots, such as the scene where Amelia and James see the thousands of butterflies in an air current, are simply breathtaking. However, I unfortunately didn’t think this made up for the lack of character development, various unnecessary scenes and (at times) slow-moving plot. Ultimately, this film was beautifully shot, but is, in my opinion, not really worth watching.
The Aeronauts is currently available on Prime Video and was rated PG by the BBFC.