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Aeronauts, The (IMAX in some cinemas)


Stars: Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Tom Courtenay, Phoebe Fox, Himesh Patel, Anne Reid

Director: Tom Harper

This account of a pioneering balloon flight in 1862 (which makes the pilot a woman rather than the actual man) is assuredly not the film to see if you are afraid of heights or suffer from vertigo, especially with the Imax screen accentuating the high-altitude perils.

And it's intensely gripping at times, notably when Jones is climbing the side of balloon, rope by agonising rope, at 36,000 feet, in an attempt to free the frozen roof to facilitate a descent.

She plays a widow, Amelia Wren/Rennes (the script can't seem to make up its mind) whose balloonist husband (Vincent Perez) jumped to his death to enable her to land. So she is naturally reluctant when astronomer and scientist James Glaisher (Redmayne) approaches her to pilot his balloon in an effort to reach new heights and research atmospheric conditions.

They soon encounter plenty of those when the balloon runs slap-dab into a fierce rainstorm soon after take-off. Amelia is thrown out, but manages to hang on and they sail on to clear skies, an illogical swarm of butterflies and a snowstorm of increasing cold.

You'd think a film about ballooning would have its dull spots, but there aren't many of those here, though a few do occur in ground-based scenes, where Courtenay nearly steals the film as Glaisher's ailing father.

All the same, picturesque balloon scenes will, of course, only take you so far, and the movie's real focus is on another very physical role for the diminutive Jones, to follow her high-kicking exploits in Rogue One. She answers all the demands the role poses with a liberal dose of true grit.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2019. UK Distributor: entertainmentOne. Colour by Company 3.
101 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Nov 2019