In 1862, flight was all about hot air balloons and considering a straw basket, rope and a sewn together giant hot ball of air; flying or floating in a balloon in 1862 was about as dangerous as it could ever be.
The unusual new film “The Aeronauts” is very loosely based on the July 17, 1862 balloon flight where James Glaisher, a weather scientists and expert balloonist Henry Coxwell took dangerous risks and rode a huge hot air balloon to an all time record height of 37,000 feet. In order to make this story marketable, Coxwell was replaced with a woman Amelia Wren, played by Felicity Jones and Glaisher is played by Eddie Redmayne. Jones and Redmayne starred in “The Theory of Everything” in 2014 and the hope here is that more audiences would be interested in this story because of the actors involved – correctly thinking that a movie about two men and a dangerous balloon ride would never draw enough people into theaters.
The problem with this entire movie is that about 90% of the story is entirely about this dangerous balloon ride with some flashbacks about Glaisher’s ambitions to understand and predict the weather and convincing Wren to fly with him. I was disappointed both with the lack of a story here and the fact that many of the amazing and dangerous feats during this highest ever balloon flight did not actually happen. There is one scene in particular where Wren climbed all the way outside of the balloon, almost 7 miles high and in the freezing cold, to the very top to free a frozen flap that was preventing the balloon from descending. The special effects with this scene with Felicity Jones is by far the best part of this movie.
On a recent talk show appearance, Eddie Redmayne talked about the first day of shooting this film, when he and Felicity Jones were almost killed when they accidentally threw out too much ballast (sand bags) and because of this they could not avoid trees and eventually crashed. Why a risk like this was taken with these two actors makes no sense on the first day of shooting considering the quality of special effects now available by using green screens makes no sense. When shooting any dangerous scene within any film, the concept of “its only a movie” should never be forgotten.
Despite the very good special effects and one amazing scene involving Amelia Wren climbing to the top of the balloon, I cannot recommend this movie, because there is nowhere near enough story.