VOD film review: The Aeronauts
Ivan Radford | On 03, Mar 2020Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Tom Harper
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones
Watch The Aeronauts online in the UK: Amazon Prime
From Up and Enduring Love to The World Is Not Enough, hot air balloons have floated across the big screen many times, but not until The Aeronauts has one really taken centre stage. Tom Harper’s uplifting tale of scientific derring-do revels in the courage and romance of the skies – and skilfully spirals from wide open spectacle to claustrophobic tension at the drop of a sandbag.
The film takes us back to 1862, when daredevil balloon pilot Amelia Wren decides to team up with pioneering meteorologist James Glaisher and fly higher than anyone in history. Glaisher’s aims are purely scientific, as he looks to learn more about meteorology and, in the process, learn to predict the weather. Jack Thorne’s script weaves their individual life stories and motivations in with their ascent, juggling flashbacks with heartfelt dialogue – a balance that brings human stakes to the academic achievement, as Wren has her own reasons to try and float off.
There’s the odd ropy piece of dialogue – “You can’t fly away from your problems!” – and a slightly too abrupt finale, but any clunking moments are drowned out by the movie’s superb sound design, which gives as much weight to windy silences as it does to Steven “Gravity” Price’s suspenseful score.
Amid that silence are two charismatic performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who reunite after The Theory of Everything and throw themselves into the boldness and imagination of their characters and their voyage. Director Tom Harper, who wowed with Wild Rose and gripped with War Book, gives both of them enough space to bring a convincing intimacy to their uneasy but trusting partnership.
But the star of the show is undoubtedly the balloon itself, as Harper blends physical and special effects with seamless visuals, accompanied by the cracking of frozen wicker, the rustling of scuffed fabric and the creaking of expanding air. Even if you don’t suffer from vertigo, you’ll be biting your nails repeatedly for the last 30 minutes – as far as films about air balloons go, The Aeronauts sees tensions rise to breathtaking heights.
The Aeronauts is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.