The Aeronauts (2019): TIFF Film Review
This review was filed from the Toronto International Film Festival.
Well, The Aeronauts seems to confirm the obvious: when it comes to playing two British historical legends in tales of life-altering situations, dynamic duo Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones know exactly what their doing. Fresh (or somewhat fresh, I never realized how long it's actually been) from their beautiful 2015 hit The Theory Of Everything, the two are back in the front and center of the screen again, this time with some science, some struggle, and a lot more balloons. But from there, the two films seem to take a leave of their own accord, because while The Theory of Everything tells the story of two well known icons in a rather traditional fashion, The Aeronauts seems to do the exact opposite, telling the brutally action packed tale of two unknown "aeronauts" in a traditional fashion, but with a twist. So when it comes down to defining this movie by a genre, that, that just can't be done.
The year is 1862, and the skies are a daunting, cloudy mess with death looming in its center. Very few have flown hot air balloons into this horrifying death-land, but James Glashier and Amelia Wren, scientist and pilot respectively, have a mission at hand. While Amelia is just along to steer James for a ride, the two's collective mission is to help Glashier gather data and information in hopes of predicting weather patterns, with an ultimate goal of avoiding catastrophe before catastrophe can arise. After the overly show-y opening ceremony, once we are propelled into the sky with our two main characters, things seem to go anything but right as the higher you go, the more difficult it becomes.
There is a lot that works in The Aeronauts, but there also is a lot that doesn't. Firstly, besides the first twenty minutes or so, the film plays like a hardcore action thriller, with non-stop adventure along the way. Some scenes will have you on the edge of your seat, heart racing and eyes wide, that is for sure. But, the film's structure is questionable - filled with an array of flashbacks that don't really help the pacing of the film, while not really assisting audiences into a deeper look at the subject characters. The flashbacks merely clamp up a film that is otherwise extremely fast paced. Telling the story of how James and Amelia funded and provided for their trips into the sky is fine, but when placed right amidst an epic scene involving scaling the side of a balloon, it just feels unnatural and in all honesty, forgettable. Regardless of this odd choice in pacing and structure, the film's leading actors, Jones and Redmayne, do a spectacular job in bringing their characters to life and to the screen, a feat incomprehensible without acknowledging their amazing on-screen chemistry that we have learned to love.
In total, The Aeronauts is one of your typical historical biography films, shedding a light into two people who seemed to be unknown to most. But, the film is so much more than that. It is an action packed adventure that sheds light into a simple fact: when a film in the biography sub-genre of filmmaking can be done right, it is something of legends. The Aeronauts won't change the face of film (in any way whatsoever), but it was a 101 minute escape that proved mostly entertaining to watch. And for that, and a little bit more, it is definitely worth the price of an admission ticket.