East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Aeronauts (2019)


Last night I discovered I still suffer from vertigo, and I did so in the most baffling and yet safe way, by watching a movie – The Aeronauts, directed by Tom Harper, is streaming on Amazon Prime, and it’s a good, entertaining, suspenseful movie, and it gave me vertigo.
Which I guess it’s a sign of how well-crafted the movie is.

Inspired by true events with a fair share of fiction thrown in, the movie takes place in 1862, and follows the balloon ascent of scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) in the first expedition to explore the atmosphere. As the balloon climbs, Glaisher and his pilot, fairground aeronaut Amelia (Felicity Jones) face a number of unplanned for challenges.

The movie plays fast and loose with historical facts – Glaisher did certainly undertake a number of balloon ascensions that would set the foundations of modern meteorology, but h e was born in 1809, and therefore in 1862 he would have been 53 (Redmayne is a very youthful 38). More importantly, Glaisher was accompanied by a man, Henry Coxwell, in his expeditions, and not by a woman.
But really, who cares.
The story is good, the dynamic between the two characters is excellent, and if we do veer into the territory of melodrama, it’s still fine for the sake of entertainment.

The movie also builds a single ascension out of bits and pieces of various different Glashier expeditions – and as a result, the fictional James and Amelia end up going through a hell of an adventure, one in which everything seems to happen in quick succession.
But once again, it’s OK.

The movie cost 40 millions, and the production puts on screen excellent period costumes, great values, and visuals that are absolutely breathtaking. The two leads are excellent, and the film offers both a great entertainment and a nice portrayal of individuals facing the unknown for the sake of science and knowledge.
It is also a great example of how much the sheer majesty and force of nature can up the ante and build tension in a story without the need for bad guys or any sort of artifice.

Highly recommended, but it might give you vertigo.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “The Aeronauts (2019)

  1. You’re the second person I’ve seen/heard recommend The Aeronauts. My buddy recommended this movie, too. Must be a sign I should watch it.:-)


  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m a Geologist, by schooling, who didn’t like the jobs offered to me upon graduation, so……I became a glassblower. I recently celebrated 50 years practicing my craft/art, and I celebrate your variety of skills/interests. I found your blog looking for information relating to Attilio Gatti’s later African expeditions, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.


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