Starring: Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Phoebe Fox, Himesh Patel, Vincent Perez, Anne Reid, Tom Courtenay, Tim McInnerny, Rebecca Front
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Biographical adventure directed and co-written by Tom Harper. Set in 1862, the story follows meteorologist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) and balloon pilot Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones), who team up to mount a balloon expedition in order to fly higher than anyone in history to advance human knowledge of the weather. As their perilous ascent reduces their chances of survival, the unlikely duo soon discover things about themselves, and each other, that help both of them find their place in the world.
Our Favorite Quotes:'One must make compromises in order to achieve greatness.' - James Glaisher (The Aeronauts) Click To Tweet 'Some reach for the stars. Some push others towards them.' - John Trew (The Aeronauts) Click To Tweet 'You don't change the world simply by looking at it. You change it through the way you choose to live in it.' - Amelia Wren (The Aeronauts) Click To Tweet
[as they are waiting for Amelia to turn up for their flight take off]
James Glaisher: John, this is Ned, one of the hardy entrepreneurs, who’s invested in our expedition.
Ned Chambers: Do not even think of telling me flight is not possible.
John Trew: Mr. Chambers, we are scientists of the air, and we can tell you the one thing no one can control is, well, the air.
Ned Chambers: I have paid for gas. I have paid for silk. And is this balloon not the strongest, and largest that’s ever been?
John Trew: Even so, it can’t fight the weather. You don’t want to be responsible for a tragedy, sir.
Ned Chambers: I don’t wish to be responsible for refunding the ten thousand that came here because you promised them history.
James Glaisher: We’ll fly, Ned. We’ll fly.
[referring to Ned Chambers]
John Trew: What a truly pleasant man.
James Glaisher: One must make compromises in order to achieve greatness, my friend. And he is merely one compromise.
[as James is waiting for Amelia to show up for their take off in front of a crowd spectators]
James Glaisher: You’re incredibly late.
Amelia Wren: Lesson number one of aeronauting, we are creatures of the skies, and have no respect for landlocked clocks.
[after Amelia turns up late for their balloon launch]
James Glaisher: Are you ready?
Amelia Wren: Mr. Glaisher, you have no conception of how ready I am.
[to the crowd of spectators before their balloon takes off]
Amelia Wren: The French rose to twenty-three thousand feet. Today, we will break that record and reclaim it for these fair shores! Who knows, we may reach the moon and bring back stardust! Today is a day when history will be made, and you will all be a part of it.
[as they’ve just launched the balloon to start ascending into the sky]
Amelia Wren: Mr. Glaisher, you are airborne for the first time in your life. I suggest you spend less time frowning at me and more taking in this beautiful world we’ve just left.
[referring to the city below as they are floating over it]
James Glaisher: It all looks so…
Amelia Wren: Insignificant?
James Glaisher: Do you take anything seriously, Miss Wren?
Amelia Wren: Some things.
James Glaisher: That crowd gathered to witness us break the height record. They didn’t need to see a flying dog.
Amelia Wren: Still stuck there, are you?
James Glaisher: I’ve spent much of my life being laughed at for what I do, Miss Wren. I’d rather hope that today might prove an exception.
Amelia Wren: Tell me, what determines your reputation?
James Glaisher: My reputation?
Amelia Wren: Yes, your standing in the scientific community.
James Glaisher: The papers I’ve written, the discoveries I’ve uncovered.
Amelia Wren: Your reputation is built on paper, and my reputation is built on screams. And those people below, they came to be entertained. And they, if you didn’t know, are the ones paying for this trip.
[as James takes out his binoculars]
Amelia Wren: You off to the opera?
[as James looks at the clouds through his binoculars]
Amelia Wren: I’ve been looking at the same thing. Don’t tell me that cloud isn’t a cause for concern.
James Glaisher: I’m the scientist, you’re the pilot. Let’s stick to our roles, shall we?
[in flashback we see James and John on the roof of a building watching a balloon in the distance]
John Trew: You’ll get your chance, you know. They’ll realize your worth.
James Glaisher: I think they know my worth quite well enough.
[in flashback we see James appearing before the Royal Society]
James Glaisher: Gentlemen, we know more now about this world around us than at any moment
in our history. And yet, still, still, we are limited by our ignorance as to what is truly above us. Now, with the progress that we have made in balloon ascent here at the Society, pioneered by Charles Green, we could advance meteorology by decades. Analysis of the Earth’s magnetic field, the solar spectrum, knowledge of the dew point, understanding of oxygenation of the atmosphere, atmospheric…
Charles Green: He wants my balloon!
James Glaisher: No, sir. No, sir, I ask for funding for my own expedition into the skies. By gathering enough data, I believe that we will be able to uncover patterns and correlations that…
Charles Green: Sir, we are scientists, not fortune tellers. You’re talking about weather prediction.
James Glaisher: But is that not our responsibility as scientists, to find order in chaos, gentlemen?
Amelia Wren: What are you attaching to those pigeons?
James Glaisher: Our readings.
Amelia Wren: I see. Reassuring to know you’ve contemplated our deaths.
James Glaisher: I’ve just insured against them, should we not make it back.
[as they are floating through the clouds in the balloon]
Amelia Wren: “What more felicity can fall to creature, than to enjoy delight with liberty.”
[Amelia has visions of her late husband, Pierre]
Pierre Rennes: “And to be Lord of all the works of nature.”
Amelia/Pierre: “To reign in the air from earth…”
Pierre Rennes: “…to the highest sky. To feed on flowers, and weeds of glorious feature.”
James/Pierre: “To take what ever thing doth please the eye?”
James Glaisher: Spenser. The Fate of the Butterflies. It’s one of my favorite poems.
Amelia Wren: Surprising. I didn’t have you down as a literary man.
James Glaisher: Men of science, uh, can enjoy words, Miss Wren.
[referring to the “The Fate of the Butterflies” poem]
Amelia Wren: My husband loved that poem.
James Glaisher: I would have liked to have met your husband.
Amelia Wren: I’m not sure he’d have liked you.
James Glaisher: Really?
Amelia Wren: He disliked people who studied rather than practiced.
[they hear thunder rumbling]
Amelia Wren: Are we still sure this weather will hold? Because my instinct is telling me…
James Glaisher: Instinct has no place in weather prediction.
Amelia Wren: You’re lying to me.
James Glaisher: Every reading that I took this morning was quite clear, Miss Wren.
Amelia Wren: There are no advantages in concealing concerns. We are trapped here no matter what you say.
James Glaisher: This pressure is changing faster than I’d anticipated.
Amelia Wren: We’re about to get wet.
[as they hit rough weather during their flight]
Amelia Wren: And so it begins.
[as they run into a violent storm during their flight]
Amelia Wren: Stay still and keep calm. I need to get us out of this.
[James sees Amelia trying to get out of the balloon basket and stops her]
James Glaisher: No! No! We cannot descend! This might be our one and only opportunity.
Amelia Wren: Of course we don’t descend.
James Glaisher: We don’t?
Amelia Wren: There are two ways to break a storm. One is to travel beneath it, the other above it. The safest way is up.
[she pushes James off her]
James Glaisher: The safest way is up.
Amelia Wren: Who did you think you got in a balloon with?
[the rough winds nearly takes both of them off the balloon, but they hold on]
[as Amelia is holding onto a rope outside the balloon basket]
James Glaisher: Take my hand! Take my hand!
[Amelia takes his hand]
James Glaisher: One! Two! Three!
[he pulls Amelia back into the balloon]
[referring to James and Ameila]
Charlie: Don’t you wish to be up there with them?
John Trew: No, I’d be an unnecessary weight.
Charlie: All the same.
John Trew: Some reach for the stars. Some push others towards them.
[as they are traveling above the clouds; to Amelia]
James Glaisher: Have you noticed, it’s completely silent?
[in flashback we see Amelia’s sister trying persuades her to attend a social event]
Amelia Wren: I do so hate how you say my name. It’s like a priest imploring me to confess my sins.
[Antonia takes the bottle of drink of Amelia]
Antonia: It’s been two years. Do you really think Pierre would have wanted this?
Amelia Wren: That is beneath even you.
Antonia: I’ll help you change. Come. Sisters together. And then I’ll let you rot.
[flashback to when James meets Amelia at a social event]
James Glaisher: Are you the Widow Wren?
Amelia Wren: I dislike that title.
James Glaisher: But you are Miss Wren?
Amelia Wren: Amelia Wren. And who might you be?
James Glaisher: Glaisher. James Glaisher.
Amelia Wren: It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Glaisher.
James Glaisher: Miss Wren, sorry, I’m a scientist, an astronomer and a meteorologist, and I…
Amelia Wren: A scientist, an astronomer, and a what?
James Glaisher: I believe that the weather can be predicted. Miss Wren, I need to make studies of the air. And I need to be in the air. And I need you to help me.
Amelia Wren: Do you even have a balloon?
James Glaisher: Not yet, no. I don’t.
Amelia Wren: So you make an invitation to me, when it is I who should be inviting you.
James Glaisher: No, I need us, I need you to fly us higher than any man, or any woman, has ever been.
[as Amelia gets James to dance with her]
James Glaisher: I presume there’s a game you’re playing here with others in the room.
Amelia Wren: You think I’m trying to make another jealous? You’re not that handsome.
James Glaisher: Every man in this room is petrified to be seen talking to you, let alone dancing with you. No, I imagine your game is with another.
Amelia Wren: You’re clever.
James Glaisher: I’m observant.
Amelia Wren: Or presumptuous. And there are certain things, if I may, that I feel safe in presuming about you. Perhaps that you don’t have an invitation for tonight’s events. Would that be a fair presumption?
James Glaisher: On what basis do you make that assumption?
Amelia Wren: Your suit is two years out of fashion. Your shoes abominable. Your dancing ridiculous. I’m leading, you are not.
[referring to the man James had pointed out as his friend earlier]
Amelia Wren: And because this gentleman clearly doesn’t know you at all. Thank you for the dance.
James Glaisher: I didn’t realize that appearances were so important to you, and I’m sorry that I don’t live up to this society standard.
Amelia Wren: I don’t care what shoes you wear. I care that you’re lying to me.
James Glaisher: It’ll be your balloon. All I ask is to be given the freedom to undertake my experiments.
Amelia Wren: I’m not a coachman for hire.
James Glaisher: Good, because I’m looking for a fellow scientist. To understand the weather, Miss Wren, is to understand how to make ships and sailors safer, farms more productive, so we can prepare ourselves and our world for floods, for droughts, famines. We could save thousands of lives. I want to rewrite the rules of the air, Miss Wren. And I need your help. So will you help me?
Antonia: I hated you going up in the air with Pierre, but why you’d want to go up on your own, I can’t even…
Amelia Wren: With Mr. Glaisher.
Antonia: You’re my only sister. I do not wish to lose you to any more foolishness.
Amelia Wren: You’d rather I found a man prepared to marry me to devote myself to.
Antonia: I’d rather you found a way to make yourself happy. You can’t just fly away from your problems. You have to face them here, on earth, with the rest of us.
Amelia Wren: Look, Antonia, I am a really good aeronaut, and I want to use what I’m good at.
Antonia: Yeah, but you are a highly accomplished woman. You could be good at so many things. You could have the most beautiful life in society, if only you’d try.
Amelia Wren: And if that isn’t what I want?
Antonia: Then you have to learn to want it.
Amelia Wren: Up there, it’s where I have found the greatest happiness.
[referring to Pierre]
Antonia: He was the happiness, not the damn balloon.
[in flashback we see James visit his parents after Amelia calls off their expedition; referring to Amelia]
Ethel Glaisher: Women don’t belong in balloons, on show. And she makes such a show of herself. Your reputation risks ruin.
James Glaisher: Well, you’ll be pleased to hear, Ma, that the expedition’s off. It was Miss Wren who wouldn’t risk flight with me.
Arthur Glaisher: Prove them wrong, James.
[in flashback we see James trying to find a pilot for his balloon expedition]
Charles Green: Have you even been in a balloon?
James Glaisher: I’ve studied them extensively.
Charles Green: Do you have any experience of frostbite, low air pressure, the mind-altering effects of a lack of oxygen to the brain?
James Glaisher: How else does one learn but by partaking?
Charles Green: Exactly what I need in a second, a theorist, with no ideas about the true dangers of the air. Find another madman to get in a balloon with. Uh, perhaps the French.
[referring to Amelia]
Charles Green: Or, better yet, that woman. Good day.
James Glaisher: And now we’ve passed twenty-two thousand six hundred.
Amelia Wren: You’re insufferable.
James Glaisher: You are excited.
Amelia Wren: And that is twenty-two thousand seven hundred. History will be rewritten.
James Glaisher: Twenty-two thousand nine hundred.
Amelia, James: Twenty-three thousand.
James Glaisher: We are now higher than any man or any woman has ever been.
Amelia Wren: Thank you for taking me up in your balloon, Mr. Glaisher.
James Glaisher: Thank you for taking me up in your balloon, Miss Wren.
[they shake hands]
Amelia Wren: It doesn’t feel different at all, does it?
James Glaisher: On the contrary. This is the moment that I’ve been waiting for my entire life.
Amelia Wren: I rather suspect I’ve been waiting for it too.
[referring to the balloon]
Amelia Wren: She’s expanding. We should think of slowing.
James Glaisher: So, the air is aiding our ascent. Isn’t that outstanding?
Amelia Wren: Surely, now is the time to put your oilskins on.
James Glaisher: I didn’t bring any oilskins. They proved extremely heavy.
Amelia Wren: I told you that you needed oilskins.
James Glaisher: Well, the equipment was essential. The weight limit was essential. If I’m to get a little sick returning…
Amelia Wren: A little sick? You carry four thermometers, you carry this strange box, but you couldn’t bring suitable clothing for the cold and the wet?
James Glaisher: Keep moving. Don’t stop. The cold will only catch you if you let it!
Amelia Wren: We need to go down now.
James Glaisher: Wait. No, no. We’re not descending. Not yet. The best way to break a storm is to travel up. I quote you, dear lady. Well, maybe the best way to break a cold is also to travel up.
Amelia Wren: And which science are you basing that upon?
James Glaisher: The science that says, with every layer of air, we are traveling into an unknown. So with every layer of air, we are traveling closer to the sun.
Amelia Wren: I believe we have already accomplished…
James Glaisher: So these findings that I am still to discover, they could be overwhelming.
Amelia Wren: You are freezing.
James Glaisher: Please. What have we to lose?
Amelia Wren: Our lives.
James Glaisher: This could be more important than our lives!
James Glaisher: Please. I know that you want this as much as I do.
Amelia Wren: I’m descending.
[James stops her]
James Glaisher: No.
James Glaisher: So this balloon has defied every single thing that we have thrown at it.
Amelia Wren: This is not about the balloon. This is not about science. This is about your war with those who lord it over you. And I have fought them too.
James Glaisher: This is, this is about that.
[he points to the sky]
James Glaisher: Look at it. There’s nothing more beautiful, nor more mysterious, than the stars in the sky. And look at us. We are dancing amongst them.
James Glaisher: You wanted that writing on the balloon, Amelia. “Caelum certe patet, ibimus illi.”
Amelia Wren: “Patet, ibimus illi. Surely, the sky lies open. Let us go that way.”
James Glaisher: The sky is open. It is open.
Amelia Wren: Now, you understand there will come a time when we go no further?
James Glaisher: Yes, I do.
Amelia Wren: Do you understand that decision will only be mine?
James Glaisher: Yes, I do.
[Amelia empties the sand out of sandbag so that they can continue to ascend]
James Glaisher: Thank you.
Amelia Wren: Tell me when we land if I deserve your thanks.
James Glaisher: You deserve many.
[flashback to when John visits Amelia to convince her to pilot James’s balloon]
John Trew: Good evening, Miss Wren.
Amelia Wren: I’ve made my decision, Mr. Trew.
John Trew: And I understand that. I just wanted to gift you this book.
[Amelia opens the book to find drawings]
Amelia Wren: These are beautiful.
John Trew: They’re pictures of snowflake formations. A study of the mathematical possibilities of nature, a study undertaken by James…
Amelia Wren: James Glaisher.
John Trew: He believes the sky can be understood.
Amelia Wren: This I am well aware.
John Trew: He is, sadly, occasionally wrong. He predicted it would snow tonight, would you believe. But more often than not, he finds remarkable truths. Travel with him, and you will discover this. I have.
Amelia Wren: I’m sorry. I clearly told him no. He should not have sent you to convince me.
John Trew: He didn’t send me. He’d consider me a poor persuader. I’m here on my own account.
Amelia Wren: You will not dissuade me from my path, Mr. Trew.
John Trew: James believes there’s something extraordinary up there.
Amelia Wren: And so this is an opportunity I should not miss?
John Trew: You misunderstand me. It’s not an opportunity, but an obligation. In this life, few are given the chance to change the world. You’ve been assigned a responsibility, Miss Wren. You have to meet it. Enjoy the book, madam.
[as James is throwing things out of the balloon]
Amelia Wren: What are you doing?! We can’t lose more weight! No! Give me the sandbag! It is time we descend.
James Glaisher: I will not stop because you can’t withstand a little pressure.
Amelia Wren: Don’t you see what’s happening?
[James’s nose starts bleeding]
Amelia Wren: James, the lack of oxygen is affecting your brain. We’re going to die unless we descend now.
James Glaisher: Your husband risked your life for his own recklessness. I do the same, but for science.
[Amelia slaps his face]
Amelia Wren: You know nothing of my husband’s death.
James Glaisher: It is well known that he pushed harder than he should have.
Amelia Wren: Now imagine that story again, and imagine this time that I am the pilot, that he told me to stop, that I was risking the balloon.
[we see flashback to Amelia and Pierre’s balloon flight, and how he sacrificed himself by jumping to his death to save his Amelia]
James Glaisher: Amelia. I’m so sorry.
Amelia Wren: Do not be responsible for the death of another. It’s one mistake you’ll never forgive yourself for.
James Glaisher: I’m so sorry. Really, I am.
Amelia Wren: Now let’s get this balloon down.
James Glaisher: Yes.
Amelia Wren: James, you have to keep moving.
James Glaisher: Yes.
Amelia Wren: If you lay still, then the hypoxia will set in. The gas release valve is frozen. I need to climb up and open it. Stay alive. Stay alive.
James Glaisher: Stay alive.
Amelia Wren: So, you didn’t have room for oils, but you did for brandy?
James Glaisher: Well, a scientist is nothing without his equipment.
[as the balloon is descending and it’s snowing around them]
Amelia Wren: My sister wanted to know why I would ever go up in a balloon again. I think it was because I wanted all that I knew, all that he taught me, all that I’ve lost, to be for something.
James Glaisher: Well, I need to make sense of all of this before I can work out quite what we’ve achieved. but it, uh, it seems that the atmosphere has levels to it. It has patterns within it.
Amelia Wren: That’s not what I mean.
James Glaisher: Newton said that we build too many walls and not enough bridges.
Amelia Wren: I don’t want to hear from Newton. I want to hear from you.
James Glaisher: All my life, I’ve found comfort in science. It helps give meaning to the many things we can’t control. It brings a degree of order to the chaos that surrounds us. But whilst we may be able to explain the science behind an aureole, or the falling snow, it’s not possible to account for its beauty. Together we’ve brought the stars closer.
Amelia Wren: We have brought the stars closer.
Amelia Wren: [voice over] James Glaisher’s meticulous recording of data showed that the atmosphere has different layers within it. A discovery which led to the first scientific weather forecasts.
[James is giving a speech to the Royal Society]
James Glaisher: The fact that I am able to be here at all to present this to you, is due to some luck, some help, and Amelia Wren’s remarkable courage. So, we tell our story, not for the purposes of pleasure, but for the advancement of knowledge, and for the good of us all.
Amelia Wren: [voice over] We took to the skies in the name of discovery, to find something new, to change the world. But you don’t change the world simply by looking at it. You change it through the way you choose to live in it.
[last lines; we see James and Amelia on another balloon flight together]
Amelia Wren: [voice over] Look up. The sky lies open.
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