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February 7, 2020

The Astronauts (2019) --- “Go Beyond The Impossible To Discover The Possible”


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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Directed by Tom Harper (War & Peace, Peaky Blinders), co-written alongside Jack Thorne (The Accident, His Dark Materials), and loosely based on the novel Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes, The Aeronauts (2019) is a biographical adventure film about discovery and survival. In 1862 London, ambitious meteorologist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) teams up with balloon pilot Amelia Rennes (Felicity Jones) to advance human knowledge of the weather and fly higher than anyone in history. While breaking records and advancing scientific discovery, their perilous ascent to the very edge of existence helps the unlikely pair find their place in the world they have left far below them. But as they face physical, emotional and mental challenges in the thin air, their ascent quickly becomes a fight for survival as they battle fierce storms, thin air, and below-freezing temperatures. Will they make it back to the ground in one piece? Or are they fated to meet the same deadly end as Amelia’s husband and fellow pilot, Pierre Rennes (Vincent Perez)?
Since the beginning of time, humans have been fascinated with discovery. Whether it's exploring the New World, the Artic, the peaks of great mountains, the bottom of the ocean or the vastness of space, humans have unceasingly endeavored to explore new worlds and break boundaries. The Aeronauts (2019) offers a window into an era when ascending into the clouds was an amazing and dangerous feat that would be matched by traveling to the moon nearly a century later. And while there isn’t anything overly remarkable about the story, its strength comes from its ability to coax the audience into understanding the remarkable beauty and dangerous nature of the venture. Unlike the Oscar-winning Stephen Hawking film The Theory of Everything, which also starred Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts) and Felicity Jones (On the Basis of Sex), The Aeronauts is less like a stuffy awards contender and more like a streamlined, historical adventure that is more interested in entertaining with thrills and emotion by taking the audience on an exhilarating journey into the clouds. 
     The aerial sequences are both stunningly beautiful and the edge of your seat thrilling with death-defying stunts that make your heart drop into your stomach. Although the film uses a lot of CGI, the film’s clever use of camera angles, tension-filled shots, and quick edits make you feel as if you're right there with the characters and act as terrifying reminds that at any moment the balloon could come crashing down. There are some grand majestic and stunning shots of the landscape outside of the balloon that makes you stare in awe at the beauty of the world we live in. The music score by Steven Price is beautiful and compliments the visuals and story nicely. While the characters do a great job, it is clear that the film's main star is the visuals.
     Since the story is loosely based on Holmes’ novel, it makes some alterations to the historical record in order to be a more gender-inclusive film that would appeal to modern audiences. For instance, according to history, James was accompanied by his co-pilot Henry Tracey Coxwell when he made his record-breaking ascent but the replaces Coxwell with the fictional Amelia Rennes, who pays homage to various female balloonists often ignored by history. The contrast of the characters makes for a more entertaining story where mercurial intuition meets dry logic. Each of the characters has their own reasons for embarking upon such a historic and dangerous venture. James is a solemn soul who desperately wants to be taken seriously as a scientist that he is willing to risk everything, even his and Amelia’s lives in order to see the venture through. He has a desire to validate his field of meteorology, which is mocked by most of the scientific community for its lack of precision. In contrast, Amelia is an adventurous and outgoing spirit who understands how to entertain and play a crowd but wants to see the venture through as an attempt to put tragedy behind her after the death of her husband the last time she took to the skies. And while she is a strong female character, the filmmakers don’t feel the need to unnecessarily burden her with the weight of representing all women. She was brave, daring, adventurous but also classy and beautiful. She was an aeronaut because she loved it not because she had to be in order to make a point. Thanks to the charming performances of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, these two characters come to life and help relate the story to the audience. Other supporting characters - Phoebe Fox as Antonia, Amelia's sister; Himesh Patel as John Trew, James's friend; Rebecca Front as Aunt Frances; Robert Glenister as Ned Chambers; Vincent Perez as Pierre Rennes, Amelia's husband. - may have limited screen time but they add to the main character’s backstories and personalities.
     Overall, The Aeronauts (2019) is a surprisingly entertaining film from Amazon Studios. The cinematography and direction will leave you on the edge of your seat with breathtaking vistas and terrifying dangers. The story takes liberties by replacing James Glaisher’s co-pilot Henry Coxwell with Amelia Rennes in order to make a more entertaining, modern, and well-rounded film that connects with the audience in a way the source material might not have been able to. I highly recommend that you check out this film about humanity’s insatiable desire to explore and conquer new discoveries.

Final Vote --- 7.8 of 10 stars

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