THE AERO­NAUTS

★★★★★

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - YOUR WEEKEND -

In­spired by a true story, The Aero­nauts takes flight with a heavy cargo of dra­matic li­cence to chart a high­alti­tude ex­pe­di­tion, which pushes two emo­tion­ally driven souls to the up­per lim­its of hu­man en­durance.

Di­rec­tor Tom Harper’s vis­ually stun­ning odyssey is loosely teth­ered to Richard Holmes’s 2013 book Fall­ing Up­wards: How We Took To The Air, which pays tribute to brave pi­o­neers of the bal­loon­ing com­mu­nity.

Scriptwrit­er Jack Thorne fo­cuses on one no­table en­try – the record­break­ing 1862 as­cent of James Glaisher and Henry Coxwell – and re­places one of the men with a fic­tional fe­male ad­ven­turer, whose dare­devil ac­tions are thrillingl­y re­alised by a stunt woman on a bal­loon in mid-flight.

Harper re­peat­edly smacks our gobs with ver­tig­i­nous thrills and spills in­clud­ing a knuckle-whiten­ing en­counter with a rag­ing storm that spins the bal­loon wildly out of con­trol.

On a tech­ni­cal level, the film soars and Ge­orge Steel’s breath­tak­ing cin­e­matog­ra­phy is par­tic­u­larly cap­ti­vat­ing on a gi­ant IMAX screen.

How­ever, char­ac­ters are emo­tion­ally mal­nour­ished de­spite the best ef­forts of Felic­ity Jones and Ed­die Red­mayne to re­cap­ture their Os­car-win­ning on­screen chem­istry from The The­ory Of Every­thing.

James Glaisher (Red­mayne) is a me­te­o­rol­o­gist in Vic­to­rian Lon­don, who be­lieves the se­cret to pre­dict­ing weather pat­terns lies 30,000 feet above the Earth.

While col­leagues in the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity pour scorn on his ideas, James is com­pelled to prove his the­ory by at­tempt­ing a record-break­ing hot air bal­loon flight cap­tained by Amelia Wren (Jones).

She is the wife of a fa­mous pi­lot,

Pierre (Vin­cent Perez), who lost his life two years ear­lier dur­ing an ill­fated as­cent.

Haunted by Pierre’s self-sac­ri­fice, Amelia ac­com­pa­nies James in a wicker bas­ket bear­ing a motto from Ovid – “Surely the sky lies open, let us go that way”.

Far be­low, James’s el­derly par­ents (Sir Tom Courte­nay and Anne Reid) and his good friend John Trew (Himesh Pa­tel) await news of the ex­pe­di­tion.

As the bal­loon passes 12,000 feet, James and Amelia are daz­zled by swarms of but­ter­flies flut­ter­ing around the bas­ket.

Soon, re­duced oxy­gen lev­els and the plum­met­ing tem­per­a­ture threaten their well­be­ing.

Ed­die Red­mayne as James Glaisher and Felic­ity Jones as Amelia Wren in a scene from The Aero­nauts

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