It truly is a shame that The Aeronauts won’t be getting the full IMAX release it originally intended to enjoy. The Aeronauts is top-flight escapism that lets audiences soar high above the clouds. The wonderful screen team of Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne bring to life the story of two adventurers going boldly where no human has gone before.
This exquisitely shot Amazon Prime film emphasizes the thrill of a big screen experience. (Which is a bit weird for a home streaming title, but whatever.) It’s visually dazzling with a heart as big as its scope–which is pretty grand considering the aeronauts ascend above the clouds. If you can’t see it in a theatre, use the occasion to buy a bigger and better TV.
The Aeronauts provides fresh entertainment from first frame to last. The film dramatizes the story of pilot Amelia Wren (Jones) and meteorologist James Glaisher (Redmayne) as they commit a daring do. The pair strives to ascend higher than any man or woman so that James can harness the power of science to predict the weather. It’s a brave feat to attempt in a hot air balloon in 1862. It’s doubly bold for Amelia who lost her husband in a ballooning accident two years earlier. This tragedy haunts her and motivates her throughout the expedition.
Director Tom Harper (Wild Rose) and screenwriter Jack Thorne do a daredevil leap of their own by playing out the hot air balloon ride in virtually real time. One rides with Amelia and James for all 73-minutes of their soaring adventure. It’s a testament to the acting, directing, writing, and especially the shooting that The Aeronauts is such a wild ride despite being set in a basket that’s just a few feet wide. Key flashback scenes space out the adventure by telling the story of how the project came to be. These scenes force Amelia to confront the trauma of her previous ride for the new one to succeed.
James and Amelia have very different approaches to the expedition, and Jones and Redmayne complement each other marvelously. They’re the yin to their screen partner’s yang. As Amelia, Jones relishes her heroine’s theatrical flair. After Star Wars, Jones really knows how to elevate a character through her physical performance as The Aeronauts offers a surprisingly demanding role for the actress despite restricting the drama to the basket of the balloon. She’s a joyously buoyant presence that keeps it afloat. Redmayne concedes the spotlight to Jones with his charmingly reserved turn as the dorky, bashful Mr. Glaisher. It’s not as adventurous a turn (we’ve seen this from Redmayne before) but he’s a fun, reliable presence.
The film stands out as one of relatively few high-profile Toronto debuts to feature strong leads both male and female. The actors’ partnership is better for it. Jones and Redmayne don’t miss an opportunity to deliver on the promise of their teamwork from 2014’s The Theory of Everything. They clearly have a lot of fun working together and their natural, effortless chemistry is a joy to watch. One hopes more outings between them are to come.