Cert PG 100mins Stars 3
It’s up up and away on a hot air balloon ride in this handsomely crafted adventure which takes off well but sadly only fleetingly soars.
A pair of chaste Victorian pioneers go where no-one has gone before in an attempt to break the high altitude record, held by their pesky French rivals.
Having won an Oscar for playing Professor Stephen Hawking in 2014’s The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne is reunited with his co-star Felicity Jones.
But playing another real life scientist, this time meteorologist James Glaisher, Redmayne must now take a back seat to Jones’ fictitious daredevil hot air balloon pilot, Amelia Wren.
In a varied and physical role Jones is a far more compelling and enjoyably flamboyant figure than she ever was in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and even in the quieter scenes her charisma burns Redmayne off the screen.
And yes his character is very much the archetypal stuffy and repressed Victorian gentlemen explorer, but it would be so much more fun for the audience if they were sparking off each other, rather than letting Jones do all the heavy lifting.
Much like 2013’s breathless sci-fi classic Gravity, this is the story of a woman coming to terms with grief, but where that film was non-stop action, every time the action builds up a decent head of steam here, we’re brought crashing to Earth for another flashback.
And unfortunately all this clumsily assembled emotional ballast unfortunately tethers the narrative to the ground, where Himesh Patel is waiting anxiously for something to do, and where veteran Tom Courtenay is tasked with making Glaisher a sympathetic character.
Plus despite frostbite, oxygen sickness, lightning storms and a malfunctioning craft, there’s a lack of jeopardy as the script fails to find much up in the clouds to sustain an adventure.
However the production design is excellent, the stunts when they arrive are thrillingly executed and the high altitude photography is epic, crisp and beautiful.
Although The Aeronauts isn’t a deflating experience, I was left feeling pumped up.