I wrote most of this immediately after seeing the film back in October last year. I didn’t post it because I’m lazy. Here it is now for your reading pleasure.
Do you want to know something wild? I was probably one of the few people that was intrigued by the trailer for ‘The Aeronauts’, the new film from director Tom Harper. I thought it might be a fun time spent at the cinema at the very least, at most an intense movie about two Victorians on a hot air balloon. To an extent, it includes that element of intensity, but not enough to make it the thrilling or fun ride that I, naively, expected it to be.
The film takes place in Victorian London. We follow two aeronauts on their journey to break the height record and collect data on the different layers of the sky. All so a scientist, played by Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts), can predict the weather. The other aeronaut is played by Felicity Jones (Rogue One) and is on this journey to honour her husband. That’s the extent of her character; her husband is dead, and now she’s sad. You’d think for spending 100 minutes trapped with basically just these two characters we’d maybe get a little bit of fleshed-out information on some of them.
It is especially annoying as we spend so much time trapped in flashbacks to the time spent leading up to the journey. Redmayne’s character fares a bit better with back story and information. He is fighting to prove that weather is proper science, prove he can survive the trip and make his dementia-stricken father proud. Even then, the writing is just bland. It follows all the tropes of these kinds of period dramas with the twist being we cut back to a massive balloon that has Eddie Redmayne getting frostbite in the corner.
They don’t bounce off each other as much as you’d like. The duo lacks something where the film sorely needs it. The filmmakers could provide some heart and soul to make it enjoyable, but no. They were nominated for Academy Awards for playing a couple. The carried that film together, so you would think some chemistry would return to make the pair an exciting watch. However, as I mentioned, it lands with nothing but a resounding “meh”.
Moving away from all of that, I wanted to talk a little about what should be the sheer spectacle that should have been present. I saw the film in IMAX and these scenes that take place in flight are formatted, and possibly shot in IMAX. The aspect ratio expands to 1.90:1 because of this, giving it a taller look than the usual 2.35:1 when viewing the film on a standard screen. It makes use of this fine, the wide shots showing the endless amounts sky and clouds are breath-taking with very few shots making you think “damn that is some bad CG”. It’s the lack of any action until the last 30 minutes when in the balloon that makes the IMAX enhanced scenes feel wasted.
Overall the film lets its potential evaporate into the air like a deflating balloon. There are some moments of pure spectacle, but by the time they kick in, it is too little too late. It’s a bit of a slog to get through with uninteresting characters with little to no chemistry. I can’t imagine how this will play on a TV now that it is stuck on Amazon Prime Video for the remainder of its days. However, ‘IMAX experience’ certainly didn’t add as much as it should have to the film, so maybe it won’t be too bad?