Review Rating: 7/10

Despite some thrilling moments that are the product of modern filmmaking techniques, “The Aeronauts” is an old fashioned, wholesome adventure flick. The film features the joyous reuniting of actors Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, who were so very good together in “The Theory of Everything.” Set in 1860s England, this high-flying adventure tale works both because of their on-screen chemistry and the entertaining premise.

After an air tragedy, risk-taking balloonist Amelia Wren (Jones) turns her back on soaring the dangerous skies. But when she’s approached by scientist James Glaisher (Redmayne), Wren longs for the thin air of high altitude. The perilous voyage is Glaisher’s high-concept gamble to study the weather using his assortment of cutting-edge gages. He hopes to develop modern methods for predicting inclement conditions.

After convincing investors to fund the scientific expedition, Glaisher convinces Wren to climb back in the basket to make aeronautic history. So, for science and the thrill of it, the two adventurers go up, and up, and up. Most of the film takes place in the basket of a hot air balloon, but we get backstories in flashback. The structure is not distracting and helps to give viewers a respite in between precarious high-altitude conflicts. 

“The Aeronauts” is not a film for folks who fear heights. Simple on-screen graphics show us how high the pair go, which is both instructive and fascinating. At one point, Wren leaves the basket. It’s a thrilling sequence that might have viewers tightly gripping the armchairs. And in the middle of the action, Jones and Redmayne have a few choice moments of tenderness. These two are a romantic screwball comedy away from becoming a modern-day Hepburn and Grant.

While Glaisher is a real figure from history, Wren is what is called a composite character. “Composite” means a character created for the screen from facets of real-world people. A movie about female balloonists might be worth pursuing, and Jones helps the cause by infusing Wren with a spirited amount of charisma. Of note, this year has featured stories about ground-breaking women of action, see “Maiden,” a documentary about pioneering female ship captain, Tracy Edwards.

“The Aeronauts” is reminiscent of something from the old school Disney live-action catalog. And the pairing of Jones and Redmayne is an added plus. 


A Tomatometer-approved critic, Jonathan W. Hickman is also an entertainment lawyer, college professor, novelist, and filmmaker. He’s a member of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, The Southeastern Film Critics Association, and the Georgia Film Critics Association. For more information about Jonathan visit: or