Redmayne & Jones soar in The Aeronauts

The Aeronauts (Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne) – The Theory of Everything featured Oscar-worthy performances for Eddie Redmayne (he won) and Felicity Jones.  They have been reunited in The Aeronauts, the story of weather forecasting pioneer James Glaisher (Redmayne).  Jones plays Amelia, a fictional compilation character who pilots the balloon that (actual) scientist Glaisher uses to try to fly higher than any person ever has.  The movie is set in London in the mid-1800s.  Not taken seriously by the scientific community, Glaisher is dismissed by his academic colleagues as a dreamer for thinking that weather can ever be predicted or forecast.

The only flying machines in the day were balloons. He seeks out Amelia, who is an experienced pilot with a flair for showmanship.  She also is haunted by the death of her husband in a balloon accident that went awry.  Their upcoming flight is considered by the public more circus entertainment than scientific journey.  Glaisher is not amused by Amelia’s antics.  They take off and climb high into uncertainty, danger, calamity, joy, and peril.

The acting, costumes, art design, stunts, and special effects are superb.  The drama is palpable.  However, the movie doesn’t feel great.  It’s too long, too talky, and too unlikely while given the dreaded “inspired” by a true story.  In reality, Glaisher made the ascent with pilot Henry Coxwell, who was kind of the Chuck Yeager (famed test pilot) of his day.  Amelia represents the female aeronauts who were more numerous than you might think.  By inventing Amelia’s character, it allowed writers Jack Thorne and Tom Harper (who also directed) to create a back story for Amelia, showcase a female pioneer, and create at least the possibility of a romantic relationship

Jones and Redmayne demonstrate great chemistry again.  Redmayne is impressive as the driven Glaisher.  Jones portrays Amelia as flamboyant, no nonsense, and totally competent.  In fact, Jones’ Amelia reminded me of Amy Adams’ Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.  In fact, it is not much of a stretch to believe that the character name was inspired by Earhart, the legendary, pioneering airplane pilot.

The film works as a heroes-in-peril story.  It doesn’t particularly work as historical drama.  The Aeronauts comes from Amazon Studios, which tells you that it will be featured on the streaming service either at the same time as it debuts in theaters or shortly thereafter.  You can afford to wait until it gets to Amazon Prime unless you are looking for a holiday movie with empty seats.

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