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THE AERONAUTS may have a title that evokes a pablum-infused family film, but make no mistake. This is a film rife with suspense and adventure. It’s also a film that contemplates the professional dangers of coming up with a new perspective, and how predicting the weather is about more than knowing whether or not to bring an umbrella when venturing outside.
The director/co-writer (with Jack Thorne) may have fudged a few facts in telling about the 1862 ascent into the unknown by two intrepid balloonists, but the facts are rock solid, as are the performances by Eddie Redmayne as a scientist with radical ideas about meteorology, including that it is, in fact a science, and Felicity Jones, as a widow and balloon pilot who captains their gas balloon to heights yet unreached by humankind.
When I spoke with him on November 21, 2019, I asked him to expand on the reluctance of the public to accept weather prediction as a possibility, but I started out by asking him a technical question. At one point as the characters are floating above the clouds, one notes the wonderful silence. I wanted to know how Harper had replicated sound of 19th-century silence.
We went on to talk about telling a story in real time while including the backstory of each character; blending as much reality into the CGI as possible; the unexpected advantages of scenes shot in close quarters; and the perils of taking a command too literally.
The fim co-stars Tom Courtney, Himesh Patel, Phoebe Fox, and Anne Reid. Harper’s previous work includes WAR AND PEACE, PEAKY BLINDERS, and WILD ROSE.