The Aeronauts (2019) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

Loosely inspired by a true story, this suspenseful, well-acted film thrusts its audience right into the heart of an unforgettable adventure sailing the skies.

In 1862, weather scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) searches for a hot air balloon pilot ready to make a "historic" journey for science up into the wild blue skies. Glaisher wants to chart weather patterns, in the hope of predicting it one day for useful purposes. But no one wants an inexperienced scientist on board... except Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones). A young aeronaut experiencing trauma after the death of her husband in a balloon accident, Amelia is not terribly keen to return to the skies, either... but Glaisher talks her into it.

On the day of their departure, he shows up serious and ready for action. She turns up in a frilled skirt with a little dog and gives the audience a show. Fifty feet up, she tosses the mutt overboard -- and he floats safely down to the ground in a parachute. As the two wrestle with dangerous weather conditions in a desperate attempt to ascend higher than anyone has ever gone before, they learn more about themselves -- and each other, in what becomes terrifying fight for their own survival.

Though inspired by the actual flight, this film is mostly fictionalized. It exchanges out Glaisher's real pilot (a man) for a woman formed of a "composite" of various actual female aeronauts at the time. And while I am usually a stickler for historical accuracy, in this film it works to have a man and a woman in the balloon. Especially because the film pairs two energetic, memorable actors in truly magnificent performances. Felicity all but steals the attention away from Redmayne, who is making a career of portraying likable but awkward introverts. Felicity brings the energetic determination, charge, and emotion the film needs before it hits the heights of its drama, in which it pits these two extremely different characters against Mother Nature. Quibbles happen about whether Glaisher brought his "oilskins" like she told him to (he didn't) and just how far to go, before they start expiring due to the extreme altitude.

The film flashes back and forth between their present adventure and their back stories, also spending minutes here and there with their friends on the ground. And if I had one complaint, it would be that the latter isn't necessary -- what is happening in and at times, on the top of, the balloon is what I most cared about. If you have any problem with heights, hold onto your seat, because scenes of Amelia climbing up the side in freezing temperatures, as well as their dazzling descent, will have you heart in your throat. It's also fun to see an original story for once that isn't a remake! The costumes are fantastic, the balloon never seem claustrophobic, some of the scenes are absolutely magical (such as them encountering a bunch of butterflies) and all in all, it may be the most fun I've had watching a movie in months.

It has a limited theater release, but if it's not playing near you -- gear up and watch it on Amazon Prime for Christmas. It's wonderful fun for the whole family.

Sexual Content
None.
 
Language:
One use of damn.
 
Violence:
A man leaps to his death off a balloon; many scenes of peril, where characters are battered by wind and about in storms, almost freeze to death, nearly plummet off the balloon; a crash landing after which characters are banged up (scratches, cuts, limping). A character doesn't care if they live or die.

Other:
None.