After seeing this good, old-fashioned adventure film about two people in a balloon, rising through the skies of mid-19th century England, challenging the elements in a bid to make a scientific breakthrough and, while they’re at it, fly higher than anyone had flown before, my first thoughts were to sing its praises.

There was plenty to praise: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are terrific as meteorologist James Glaisher, whose goal was to advance weather predictions, to “make a science of weather,” and as Amelia Wren, a daredevil balloon pilot who wanted her name in the record books. Up in the air, there’s plenty of derring-do, and excitement to spare, when the weather conditions turn rough for our two protagonists being tossed around in their little basket, and the visual effects work well to enhance the feeling of danger. Down on the ground, where thousands of spectators are staring upward, costume design and production design join forces to create a finely tuned period piece. And it’s a true story!

But, hold on. The words printed across the screen at the beginning actually read: “Inspired by true events.” Inspired by? Just how much license does that give a storyteller to play with the facts? I mean, this all must have been true, since, in the closing moments of the film, one of the characters says, “We tell our story, not for the purpose of pleasure, but for the advancement of knowledge.”

Still, I needed to check things out. The website of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, gave me loads of information on James Glaisher, who was, indeed, an important man in the science of meteorology, and who made many balloon ascents to record details of weather conditions. But a search for some background on Amelia Wren resulted in the discovery - to my amazement - that she was a fictional character, and that the balloon pilot who regularly went up with Glaisher was a fellow named Henry Tracey Coxwell.

What? I double-checked that, then triple-checked it. Nope, couldn’t find any Amelia Wren, even though in this “inspired by true events” movie she’s a widowed reckless daredevil who was the only person Glaisher could turn to (the only person with a balloon) for help with his experiments when no one would give him funding. But there is no mention of Henry Tracey Coxwell. The film has erased him from history.

Is this a big deal in the scheme of things? I’d imagine that contemporary members of Coxwell’s family think so. In real life, he not only assisted Glaisher, but also saved his life in an event that’s recreated in the film (where “Wren” saves him). Is it outrageous to rewrite things so that an unknown male character is portrayed by an attractive actress? Yes, it is. Was this a political move? Was it a bid to bring in more money at the box office? I don’t know. The writer, the director, and the handful of producers are all men, but Amazon Studios, the company that greenlit and is distributing the film, is run by Jennifer Salke. No one is saying who made this ridiculous decision.

It’s too bad. “The Aeronauts” is not a great film, but it’s a good one. The chemistry between the actors is completely believable, even though the closest thing to an almost-expected romance is a handshake (probably a good thing, since Glaisher was a married man, though that isn’t mentioned, either). There are well-placed flashbacks that explain the motivations of the characters (yes, even the phony one). When things go wrong way up there (a jammed gas release valve, lack of oxygen, frostbite), there’s a palpable sense of peril. Cameras are everywhere - looking up at the balloon from the ground, and down at the ground from the balloon as it sails above the clouds.

Did the filmmakers - or the studio - really think no one would find out about their unnecessary fakery? Would it have worked if they didn’t add that “true events” business at the beginning? The point is moot. The fact is that the lie is just so distracting, it takes away from the enjoyment of the film.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“The Aeronauts”

Written by Jack Thorne; directed by Tom Harper

With Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Rated PG-13