DON’T mind admitting I groan inwardly when a film declares it is “inspired by/based on a true story”. It should not matter too much. The cinema is the land of make-believe after all, a place where elephants fly, men in capes leap tall buildings, and no-one has ever had cosmetic surgery. Yet sometimes the facts do matter.

The Aeronauts is directed by Tom Harper and written by Jack Thorne, with a story by both. Harper and Thorne are having quite the year, with the former’s Wild Rose cleaning up at the Scottish Baftas last Sunday, and the latter’s His Dark Materials making its television debut to general acclaim.

A notable duo, as is Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, who last appeared on the big screen together as Jane and Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Here, they play nineteenth century scientist James Glaisher, and Amelia Wren, the balloon pilot who agrees to take him up, up, and away, further than any human has gone before. He is the unshowy end of the partnership, she is the one who draws the crowds and brings in the money to fund their attempt on the world record.

After a three ring circus launch, complete with a stunt involving a dog that is definitely not one to try at home, a quietness descends as the pair soar over London, the world below their feet becoming smaller with every kilometre they ascend. It is in moments such as these that Harper and Thorne fill in the characters’ back-stories: Glaisher’s attempts to make weather prediction an accepted scientific study, and Wren’s recovery from a past tragedy. While necessary to make the audience care about the characters, these getting to know you scenes are lethally dull at times. Even for a nation obsessed with the weather there is only so much chat about it to be had.

What brings the film to life are the action sequences, all of them led by Jones’ character. When the mission inevitably hits trouble it is Wren who leaps into the breach. Jones is magnificent, jumping and climbing and swinging on ropes like Tarzan in a long dress. Redmayne, meanwhile, does a lot of scenery chewing.

Here is the rub, however. Glaisher was a real person, Wren is not. The real pilot was one Henry Coxwell. There were women aeronauts at the time, and Jones has said she drew inspiration from one, but the fact remains that Wren is fictitious.

While that does not take away from Jones’ terrific performance, and the genuine excitement generated in some scenes, it is worth noting. Who knows, maybe there will come a day when the stories of real women are as common on screen as those of men. If an elephant can fly ...