We were entertained and thrilled by this drama about two ballooning pioneers in 1862 England. James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne), a character based on a historical figure, is a zealous scientist who tries to get members of the Royal Astronomical Society to support an expedition into the upper atmosphere where he hopes to prove that it is possible to forecast the weather. He is convinced his discoveries will save lives during disasters and help farmers and the businesses dependent upon them who must cope with the effect of weather patterns on their crops.
Glaisher needs to use a balloon for this project. He's dreamed of this kind of flight since he was a child. Now when his fellow scientists won't help him find funding, he turns to a feisty young woman, Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones). A daredevil balloon pilot, she finally agrees to help him build, fund, and fly the balloon — even though her husband fell to his death in a previous flight.
Much to the shy and conservative Glaisher's surprise, Wren puts on a wild performance before the huge and appreciative crowd who have gathered to watch the balloon launch. She has promised that they will break the altitude record with this flight. All cheer as she executes a series of cartwheels and jumps into the balloon's wicker basket. She even brings a small dog on board, which she playfully tosses overboard as they ascend. The crowd gasps and then cheers when a parachute unfurls taking the dog safely to the ground. Clearly Glaisher's scientific aspirations are not what is important this day!
The famous writer Victor Hugo was a big fan of ballooning. He wrote that it was capable of transforming a human being "into a thinking eagle with a soul." The odd team of Glaisher and Wren do set a record, reaching some seven miles above the Earth, but to do so requires all their courage, resourcefulness, and ability to bear pain in a heavy wind-battering rain storm, frigid cold that rattles the brain, and a daring climb to open a frozen valve so that they can return to Earth. These scenes are gripping, occasionally terrifying, and not for anybody who is afraid of heights!
Director Tom Harper and screenplay writer Jack Thorne have fashioned a thrilling adventure that is animated by Felicity Jones's feisty and flamboyant performance as the air balloon's pilot. Her antics at the liftoff party are delightful, her heroics during the dangerous moments of flight are breathtaking, and her survival instincts during the return to Earth are awesome! Along the way, the very human sides of these pioneers come forth, making it possible for those of us who are not so adventuresome to empathize with them.