BFI #LFF 2019: THE AERONAUTS Film Review

Felicity Jones in The Aeronauts

While THE AERONAUTS is an undeniably a technical marvel, its weakness lies within its storytelling

3.5 out of 5 stars

WILD ROSE’s Tom Harper makes a welcome return to the BFI London Film Festival with his latest feature film THE AERONAUTS, a heart-racing and breathless adventure about flight and scientific discovery.

Set in 1862, THE AERONAUTS follows budding meteorologist James Glashier (Eddie Redmayne) who believes that he can learn to predict the weather if can just get high enough in the sky to collect data. In pursuit of this, he enlists the help of the adventurous Amelia Renne (Felicity Jones) as his co-pilot and together, they go high above the clouds in a hot air balloon, inevitably meeting with trouble along the way resulting in an epic fight for survival.

It’s worth noting at this point that if you don’t have a head for heights, THE AERONAUTS is not the film for you. The scene in which Renne is swept over the side of the balloon is so believably conveyed that it’ll cause vertigo for some.

Harper also makes great use of sound, cinematography and CGI here to make you truly feel like you are also inside the balloon. The result is an undeniable technical marvel, the wide angle shots delivering something majestic and enchanting as we travel high in the sky. THE AERONAUTS is a film that is best suited for the big screen – the bigger the better.

Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in The Aeronauts

The film is elevated by the star power of Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne whose chemistry hasn’t missed a beat since they last collaborated on the THEORY OF EVERYTHING. Redmayne continues to captures hearts as the charming James Glashier but it is Jones in particular, who shines here, the role of Amelia Renne not only requiring emotional strength but also physicality as well.

Yet while the visuals and performances are great, THE AERONAUTS weakness lies within its storytelling. While the core story is certainly intriguing, it lacks any real character development and as such, makes it difficult for us to truly connect with the characters. Instead of taking the time to develop some backstory initially, the film jumps right into the balloon launch, choosing to use flashbacks to expand on Renne and Glashier’s subplots.


The constant jumps between the past and present also make the film feel much longer than its modest running time of 101 minutes. Many of flashback scenes feel flat and predictable and you find yourself wishing for action to flip back into the balloon, the sequences which feel all together more fresh and exciting.

That said, you can’t fault Harper and co-writer Jack Thorne for tackling such a bold topic, one which is rarely seen on-screen and the special effects alone is enough to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

THE AERONAUTS screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 7 October 2019 and is released in UK cinemas from 6 November 2019.