I was expecting this to be a reasonably exciting film with some gripping sequences, though in the event, apart from just one really heart-in-mouth episode, found it curiously flaccid in suspense and, frankly, maybe not as interesting as it deserves to be, but that may have been just me. Despite this I have to acknowledge that the photography, particularly when the intrepid balloon-travelling couple, scientist (Eddie Redmayne) and his pilot (Felicity Jones), are airborne at prodigious heights, is extraordinary.
London 1862, and the pair have set themselves the task of beating the world record (23,000 feet) for height achievement in a hot air balloon, held by the French. They are a chalk-and-cheese couple, he being the more taciturn of the two, seriously intent on taking down meteorological data, while she is a wealthy and extrovert widow with ballooning experience, larking around and looking on the task as a great adventure, extracting the maximum fun from it. (Incidentally we saw Redmayne and Jones together in 'The Theory of Everything' , he playing Stephen Hawking - and for which he won an Oscar - and she the latter's first wife). Although the two of them get equal billing in this it's essentially her film, she being the one who, by her loud manner and devil-may-care bravura, pulls all the attention.
Once on their ascent they have to cope with a number of difficulties and hurdles culminating in a frozen climax as they reach height of 37,000 feet - including that heart-stopping section I mention, where she is trying to save their mission from disaster and certain death for both while he is lying frozen into a comatose condition. How they managed to replicate her efforts clambering up onto the ice-covered surface of a huge balloon is itself remarkable. (Btw: Why is it that in these ultra-cold situations we never see the breath of the actors coming out of their mouths like steam? Can't they CGI it so it looks authentic?)
During the flight there are a number of flashbacks over the previous two years showing incidents involving both main characters, including a distressing one on how she became a widow - though it struck me that these episodes in general were little more than unnecessary padding to make the film longer, even though at 1.40 it's not exactly excessive in length.
Director Tom Harper, who's done mainly TV work up to now, is also this story's co-writer (based on 'true events', as seems to be the case with so many films nowadays). As director he fulfils the requirements adequately, with some rather tricky and impressive accomplishments on the flight climaxes.
In no sense can this be called a 'poor' film. For me it just lacked that extra something to make it more memorable than what I experienced........6.
(IMDb....................6.4 /Rott Toms (critics only)............6.4 )
1 hour ago