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The Aeronauts
First run Theater cinema

Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, the stars of The Theory of Everything (2014) reunite for this more fanciful “true story” about hot air balloonists who break the world flight altitude record in 1862. The Aeronauts is very loosely based on the assent undertaken by the astronomer and meteorology pioneer James Glaisher. But in this telling of the tale, he’s paired with a spunky female pilot named Amelia Wren— herself loosely based on the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, Sophie Blanchard.

Though a slight and forgettable picture, the Amazon Studios release was given a grand theatrical rollout in IMAX, 4DX, and 70mm film in select theaters. Its period setting combined with the large format presentation captures some of the feelings of old road-show presentations of classics from the 1950s and ‘60s, such as Around the World in 80 Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. Like those over-produced entertainments, The Aeronauts is much more amusing big-screen spectacle than great cinematic storytelling. The two real-life characters at the heart of the movie are reduced to simplistic stereotypes—the fussy, underappreciated scientist with a dream, and the wild, liberated professional woman pushing the envelope to escape inner sadness. 

But, as far as it goes, this is an enjoyable picture that captures the feeling of flight effectively. Though much is done digitally, there’s a lot of the balloon stuff that’s done practically at actual altitudes. And there’s a scene in which Jones must climb to the top of the balloon while at its highest elevation after it’s been frozen from the frigid air to the point where the door that lets the gas escape won’t open. This sequence will make those afraid of heights gasp and cover their eyes. The Aeronauts doesn’t give viewers as powerful a cinematic depiction of hanging by a thread from a great height as the high-wire scenes in Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk (2015)—but, if seen on a really big screen, it delivers on much of what it promises. Too bad it doesn’t tell a terrific story that’s just a shade closer to the actual history.

Twitter Capsule:
Large-format, loosely historical film about two balloonists who break the world flight altitude record in 1862 captures some of the fun that classic '50s and ‘60s road-show presentations must have been, but it's pretty slight as a story.
Directed by Tom Harper
Produced by David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, and Tom Harper

Screenplay by Jack Thorne
Story by Tom Harper and Jack Thorne

With: Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Himesh Patel, Tom Courtenay, Phoebe Fox, Anne Reid, Tim McInnerny, Robert Glenister, Rebecca Front, Lewin Lloyd, and Vincent Perez

Cinematography: George Steel
Editing: Mark Eckersley
Music: Steven Price

Runtime: 100 min
Release Date: 06 December 2019
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1