The Aeronauts (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tom Harper|
|Screenplay by||Jack Thorne|
|Based on||Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air|
by Richard Holmes
|Music by||Steven Price|
|Edited by||Mark Eckersley|
|Box office||$3.3 million|
The Aeronauts is a 2019 semi-biographical adventure film directed by Tom Harper and written by Jack Thorne, from a story co-written by Thorne and Harper. The film is based on the 2013 book Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes. Produced by Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman, and Harper, the film stars Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Himesh Patel and Tom Courtenay.
The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on 30 August 2019, followed by a showing at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. It was released in the United Kingdom on 4 November 2019, and in the United States on 6 December 2019. The film was praised by critics for its action, visual effects, and cast, while some criticized its plot and lack of historical accuracy.
In 1862 London, scientist James Glaisher and pilot Amelia[N 1] arrive for the balloon launch. Despite being haunted by a vision of her late husband Pierre, Amelia keeps up the brave front and the balloon launches. In a flashback, James appears before the Royal Society and explains his theory that the weather can be predicted but he is laughed out of the building. Returning home, he talks to his parents, who try to persuade him to pursue another avenue of science. On the balloon, James and Amelia start rising through the cloud layer. They soon run into a violent storm which sends the balloon spinning. In a flashback, Antonia persuades her sister, Amelia, to attend a society function. There, Amelia is approached by James and he asks if she would be willing to be his pilot while he attempts to prove his theories to which she agrees.
After a close brush with death, with James suffering a head injury, they make it through the storm and continue rising. James releases the first of five pigeons carrying messages stating the current altitude along with other scientific readings in case they don't survive. They discover an air current which is home to a group of butterflies, confirming one of the theories of James' friend John Trew, a theory that James had always disputed. In a flashback, as James practices for the flight, Amelia approaches and tells him she's changed her mind. At this, John goes to see Amelia to convince her. Amelia goes to Pierre's grave to reflect. When it begins to snow, as James had predicted, she decides to go with him after all. Eventually, the balloon exceeds 23,000 feet (7.0 km), beating the record for the highest altitude. Amelia finds out James didn't bring any clothes suitable for the rapidly decreasing temperature and decides to start descending. James refuses, and the two argue. Amelia agrees to keep rising, but makes it clear to James that they'll have to start descending soon.
James starts experiencing hypoxia from the altitude as they ascend and insists they continue. The two get into a scuffle. When Amelia tells him the story of how Pierre sacrificed himself to save her during a balloon flight, James agrees to descend. Amelia discovers the gas release valve on top of the balloon is frozen. As James falls unconscious, she has no choice but to climb up the outside of the balloon and open the valve from the top. With frostbite setting in on her hands, she struggles to wedge her boot in the valve, causing a slow release of the gas. Amelia loses consciousness and topples over the side but is saved by her rope tether.
When she awakens, Amelia manages to swing back to the balloon and rouse James. As they continue to descend, snow begins to hover around them, and they realize the balloon is collapsing from the loss of too much gas. They manage to close the gas release but it is not enough to slow their descent, so they throw everything they can over the side. When this doesn't work, they climb into the framework and release the basket. Amelia then prepares to sacrifice herself to save James, but James convinces her that they can use the balloon as a parachute, which slows their descent. They crash through trees and hit the ground hard, with Amelia being dragged along behind the balloon. She wakes and calls for James, who staggers towards her. Both are injured, but euphoric that they managed to survive, setting a new human flight altitude record of 37,000 feet (11.3 km). James's findings eventually paved the way for the first weather forecasts. James and Amelia go on another balloon flight together.
- Eddie Redmayne as James Glaisher
- Felicity Jones as Amelia[N 1]
- Himesh Patel as John Trew, James's friend
- Tom Courtenay as Arthur Glaisher, James's father
- Phoebe Fox as Antonia, Amelia's sister
- Rebecca Front as Aunt Frances
- Robert Glenister as Ned Chambers
- Vincent Perez as Pierre Rennes, Amelia's husband
- Anne Reid as Ethel Glaisher, James's mother
- Lewin Lloyd as Charlie
- Tim McInnerny as Airy
- Thomas Arnold as Charles Green
- Lisa Jackson as Poppy
- Elsa Alili and Connie Price as Antonia’s daughters
- Bella as Posey the dog
In December 2016, Amazon Studios purchased the film rights to Jack Thorne's spec script. In mid-2018, Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne were confirmed to star in the film. They were reunited after 2014's The Theory of Everything, directed by James Marsh, as their past work and real-life friendship would help them in this new collaboration. Filming commenced in early August, in West London Film Studios.
Filming locations in England included the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Regent's Park, London, Claydon House, Buckinghamshire, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Wrotham Park, London and The Historic Dockyard Chatham in Kent.
The film is based on an amalgam of the flights detailed in Richard Holmes' 2013 book Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air (ISBN 978-0-00-738692-5). The most significant balloon flight depicted in The Aeronauts is based on the 5 September 1862, flight of British aeronauts James Glaisher and Henry Coxwell whose coal gas filled balloon broke the world flight altitude record, reaching 30,000 to 36,000 ft (9,000 to 11,000 m). However, while Glaisher appears in the film, Coxwell has been replaced by Amelia, a fictional character.
A report in the Daily Telegraph quotes Keith Moore, Head of Library at the Royal Society, as saying, "It's a great shame that Henry [Coxwell] isn't portrayed because he performed very well and saved the life of a leading scientist". Moore then criticised the film's fictional female protagonist, stating “There were so many deserving female scientists of that period who haven't had films made about them. Why not do that instead?" In an interview with The List, Harper explained that whilst the film was inspired by a number of historical flights, the intention was never to make a documentary and he wanted the film to be reflective of a contemporary audience. He also commented on a gender bias in science, stating "There were female scientists around at the time, but not in the Royal Society... to this day, only eight percent of the Royal Society is female."
Other critics of the film have praised Amelia as an important, aspirational female character. Sasha Stone of Awards Daily wrote that The Aeronauts "inspires young girls and nudges the perspectives of young boys... (proving) that women can be just as excited about taking a hero's journey as any man can."
In addition to Coxwell, actual individuals who compose Amelia's character include:
- Sophie Blanchard, the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, who became a celebrated aeronaut following her husband's death. Felicity Jones has stated that Blanchard was the inspiration for her character.
- Margaret Graham, a British aeronaut and entertainer.
Amelia's relationship with husband Pierre is chiefly based on Sophie Blanchard's flights with husband Jean-Pierre Blanchard, while Pierre's death is inspired by that of Thomas Harris on 25 May 1824.
The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on 30 August 2019. It also screened at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival on 8 September 2019. Entertainment One gave the film a full theatrical release in the United Kingdom on 4 November, including screenings in 4DX and IMAX. Amazon Studios released the film in the United States on 6 December for a limited theatrical run, before debuting it on Amazon Prime Video outside of the United Kingdom on 20 December 2019.
Although Amazon does not release exact streaming figures, Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios said in an interview with Deadline Hollywood that as of January 2020 The Aeronauts was the most viewed movie of all time on Amazon Prime.
The Aeronauts has grossed an estimated $340,000 in North America and $2.91 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $3.3 million, against a production budget of $40 million.
As with its other fall release The Report, Amazon did not publicly release box office results for the film. However, 48 of the 186 theatres that did screen it in its opening weekend (6 December 2019) reported a combined gross of around $30,000. IndieWire estimated the film made a total of $185,000 in its opening weekend, an average of $1,000 per-venue. It then made an estimated $100,000 from 85 theatres in its second weekend, before its 20 December streaming debut on Amazon Prime.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 72% based on 181 reviews, with an average rating of 6.42/10. The website's critics consensus states, "Thrilling visuals and the substantial chemistry of its well-matched leads make The Aeronauts an adventure well worth taking." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 60 out of 100, based on reviews from 37 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "The Aeronauts achieves impressive elevation as a bracing and sympathetic account of two early and very different aviators who together reached literal new heights in a perilous field of endeavor." Fionnuala Halligan of Screen International wrote about the chemistry of the lead actors and the great craft on display in the film: "With the widest of wide-screens, the most vertiginous of vistas, this hot air balloon takes to the skies and soars." Tomris Laffly of Variety praised the visuals and the lead performers: "The duo [of Redmayne and Jones] hand-in-hand elevates The Aeronauts...from a flimsy action-adventure to something worth watching on the biggest possible screen, even if it operates on a handful of clichés with little character-based substance to speak of."
Many critics also applauded the film's special effects and visuals. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian noted the film's "terrific special effects" and "high-anxiety suspense". Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote: "When so many supersized blockbusters take the potential of CGI action for granted, The Aeronauts finds a fresh use for it by turning the exhilaration of discovery into a real visual treat." In a generally positive review, critic Bob Mondello showed special enthusiasm for the airborne scenes, writing: "I cannot say strongly enough that if you can see it in IMAX, you should see it in IMAX, where if you're even a little bit afraid of heights, it will likely scare you shoutless."
|25th Critics' Choice Awards||Best Visual Effects||The Aeronauts||Nominated|||
|18th Visual Effects Society Awards||Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature||Louis Morin, Annie Godin, Christian Kaestner, Ara Khanikian, Mike Dawson||Nominated|||
- Rennes and Wren are both stated as the last name of the lead, Amelia. The character is credited as "Amelia Wren" although in the film Amelia is shown looking at a handbill with the notice "The aeronaut and his bride, Pierre and Amelia Rennes, 14th September 1856" and her husband's graveside bears the inscription "In loving memory Pierre Rennes".
- Boland, Hannah (31 December 2018). "Amazon in talks to release original films in Imax cinemas in 2019". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- "The Aeronauts (2019)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
- Gant, Charles (7 October 2019). "How Tom Harper ensured the $40m 'The Aeronauts' took flight with Amazon Studios". Screen Daily. Media Business Insight. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
- "The Aeronauts (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
- Brueggemann, Tom (15 December 2019). "'Uncut Gems' and 'Bombshell' Soar, Malick's 'A Hidden Life' Drags". IndieWire. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
- Bricker, Tierney (6 December 2019). "How The Aeronauts Drastically Changed the Real-Life Story". E! Online. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
- Paur, Joey (16 August 2018). "Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne Featured in First Photo From Amazon's 'The Aeronauts'". Geek Tyrant. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
- McIntosh, Steven (9 September 2019). "Redmayne and Jones on 'wonderful' screen reunion". BBC News. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
- "The Aeronauts". Toronto International Film Festival.
- Lodderhose, Diana; Fleming Jr., Mike (8 December 2016). "Amazon Studios Takes Flight With Hot Package 'The Aeronauts'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Pearson, Ben (15 August 2018). "'The Aeronauts' First Look: Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne Reunite 2,000 Feet in the Sky". /Film. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
- Heath, Paul (15 August 2018). "First Look At Eddie Redmayne & Felicity Jones In Amazon's 'The Aeronauts'". The Hollywood News. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
- White, Abbey (12 May 2019). "How Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne's Rapport Was Key to 'Aeronauts' Dynamic". The Hollywood Reporter. Valence Media. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
- O'Byrne, Audrey (22 August 2018). "U.K. Now Filming: Amazon's Star-Studded 'The Aeronauts'". Backstage. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
- Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Aeronauts (2019) Article".
- Petski, Denise (14 May 2019). "'The Aeronauts' Will Have One-Week Imax Run In October". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
- "Two aeronauts break world record for altitude in a balloon 5 September 1862". History. 19 June 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
- Malvern, Jack. "Ballooning hero becomes a woman for new Eddie Redmayne film The Aeronauts". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 14 August 2019.(subscription required)
- Bodkin, Henry (15 August 2018). "Ballooning hero 'airbrushed' from history to make way for female character in Eddie Redmayne film". The Daily Telegraph. UK: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
- Mottram, James (31 October 2019). "Tom Harper: 'They were taking these extraordinary risks to further human knowledge and to see the world differently'". The List. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
- Holmes, Richard (21 November 2010). "The Royal Society's lost women scientists". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
- Stone, Sasha (2 September 2019). "The Aeronauts – A Flight of Fancy With a Great Performance by Felicity Jones". Awards Daily.
- Scott, Walter (21 December 2018). "Felicity Jones on Meeting Ruth Bader Ginsburg & Why She Joined Star Wars". Parade. AMG/Parade. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- Winchester, Simon (25 October 2013). "Book Review: 'Falling Upwards' by Richard Holmes". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 28 May 2019.(subscription required)
- Hammond, Pete (29 August 2019). "Telluride Film Festival: 'Ford V Ferrari', 'Judy', 'Motherless Brooklyn', Weinstein-Inspired Drama 'The Assistant' Among Premieres Headed To 46th Edition – Full List". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
- Fleming Jr., Mike (13 August 2019). "Toronto Adds 'The Aeronauts,' 'Mosul,' 'Seberg,' & More To Festival Slate". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Grater, Tom. "'The Aeronauts' to get full UK theatrical window despite Amazon strategy shift (exclusive)". ScreenDaily.
- Wiseman, Andreas (23 July 2019). "Amazon Shifts Release Date & Cuts Theatrical Window For Potential Awards Pic 'The Aeronauts' With Eddie Redmayne & Felicity Jones". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- Hipes, Patrick (21 October 2019). "AFI Fest Rounds Out Gala Slate With 'The Aeronauts', 'The Two Popes'; Alan J. Pakula Getting Tribute". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 23 October 2019.
- Fleming Jr., Mike (23 January 2020). "Last Sundance's Top Buyer Amazon Is All In At Park City: Jennifer Salke Q&A". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
- "The Aeronauts (2019)". The Numbers. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (8 December 2019). "'Frozen 2' Leads Dreary December Weekend With $34M+, 'Playmobil' Plunges To $670K – Sunday Update". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
- Brueggemann, Tom (8 December 2019). "Neon's 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' Grabs Arthouse Crowd, Amazon's 'The Aeronauts' Deflates". IndieWire. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
- "The Aeronauts (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
- "The Aeronauts Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
- McCarthy, Todd (1 September 2019). "'The Aeronauts': Film Review | Telluride 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. Valence Media.
- Halligan, Fionnuala. "'The Aeronauts': Review". Screen Daily. Media Business Insight. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
- Laffly, Tomris (4 September 2019). "Telluride Film Review: 'The Aeronauts'". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
- Bradshaw, Peter (10 September 2019). "The Aeronauts review – charming balloon adventure way up where the air is clear". The Guardian. UK: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- Kohn, Eric (1 September 2019). "'The Aeronauts' Review: 'Gravity' Meets 'Free Solo' in Gripping Hot-Air Balloon Adventure". IndieWire. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
- Mondello, Bob (5 December 2019). "Movie Review: 'The Aeronauts'". NPR.org. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
- Hammond, Pete (8 December 2019). "'The Irishman', 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood' Lead Critics' Choice Nominations; Netflix Dominates With 61 Noms In Movies And TV". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
- Hipes, Patrick (7 January 2020). "VES Awards Nominations: 'The Lion King', 'Alita: Battle Angel', 'The Mandalorian' & 'GoT' Top List". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 7 January 2020.