Review: TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES 衝上雲霄 (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 13 February 2015

Review: TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES 衝上雲霄 (2015)

TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES is nothing more than a glossy romantic drama equivalent of an extended music video montage.

Back in 2003, the 40-episode TVB drama of Triumph In The Skies emerged as one of the best and most popular TV series ever produced in Hong Kong during that era. After all, it's easy to see why: the series' subject matter in the aviation industry was a fresh approach rarely explored in the TVB drama series, coupled with memorable characters including Francis Ng's iconic role as the impassive and by-the-book Captain Samuel Tong, unpredictable love stories and beautiful location shoots around the world. Ten years later in 2013, the sequel was even more successful, especially with the introduction of Julian Cheung's charming portrayal as Captain Cool. Having seen and enjoyed the two seasons of Triumph In The Skies, I was hoping the long-awaited big screen version can at least recapture the spirit of the series. Unfortunately, the movie fails to do so in many levels.


In this big-screen version of TRIUMPH OF THE SKIES, ambitious pilot-turned-entrepreneur Branson (Louis Koo) has taken over the airline, Skylette. He plans to restructure the entire company by inviting popular rock star TM (Sammi Cheng) to star in an upcoming promotional video with Captain Samuel Tong (Francis Ng) served as her flying consultant. Both TM and Samuel gets off to an awkward start before they gradually fall for each other.

Meanwhile, Branson discovers his ex-girlfriend Cassie (Charmaine Sheh) is a flight attendant working for Skylette. He hopes to reconnect with her after previously forced to break up when Branson need to move to New York to take care of his father's airline business.

Captain Jayden Koo a.k.a. Captain Cool (Julian Cheung) has left Skylette long time ago and now, he serves as a pilot for the private jet. During a flight, he meets the spunky young woman named Kika (Amber Kuo) and falls in love with her before he eventually finds out the truth about her.

With the help of Jason Kwan's magnificent cinematography and Jeff Mak's glamourous art direction, TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES is one of the most visually-stunning motion pictures ever seen in a Hong Kong production. The international location shoots, especially the one set in various places around England, is simply eye-catching.

As an eye candy, the cast is appealing enough. But in terms of characterisation, I'm surprised to find out that cameo appearance from Kenneth Ma and Elena Kong, who both reprised the series' roles as Roy and Sister Head, manage to deliver worthwhile performances within their limited screen times. Charmaine Sheh, the current TVB queen from last year's undercover hit series Line Walker, made a rare big-screen appearance with a fairly wonderful performance as Cassie. Taiwanese singer-and-actress Amber Kuo, in the meantime, is suitably typecast as a young woman with a carefree attitude.

The spectacular scene involving Branson performs aerobatics while flying solo in a small airplane.

Although Wilson Yip and Matt Chow have made it clear that the movie version is a spin-off than a direct continuation from the TVB series, there is no excuse for coming up with a paper-thin storyline written on a napkin. Problem is, the movie is more of a lame excuse to put existing characters from the TVB series, then throw them a couple of shallow love stories and call it a day.

Speaking of love stories, the movie is neither interesting or heartfelt enough. Apparently the screenwriters behind the movie version are being ignorant of what makes the TVB series such a phenomenon in the first place. Gone is the complicated love triangle that made the TVB series so compulsively watchable, and it would have been better if the movie version follows suit as well. While there is nothing wrong for trying to be different, it's really pity to see the screenwriters fails to come up with a decent love story whatsoever.

Among other weaknesses surrounding this movie version is the shockingly shapeless direction between Wilson Yip and Matt Chow. Over the course of the duration, TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES works like a feature-length music video where everything is all about style, but little else matters such as characters and story development. It's also hard to believe that the movie version is totally devoid of the series' inner look of the aviation industry. If you are expecting the movie version can at least do justice by including the series' aviation industry lingo or pilot training sequence, you'll be left disappointed since the movie is positioned squarely as a romantic drama.

Apart from Kenneth Ma and Elena Kong, the same cannot be said with the rest of the cast. Even the superstar appearances of Louis Koo and Sammi Cheng does little with their underdeveloped characters other than looking good the whole time. However, the biggest disappointment of all in the cast is Francis Ng and Julian Cheung. Both of them were great in the second season of Triumph In The Skies, but traces of their solid performances from the TVB series are hardly found in this movie version. Sure, we still get to see Francis Ng's stoic appearance and Julian Cheung's charismatic personality that we have grown accustomed from the TVB series. But beyond that, there is nothing much to recommend about their characters.


On the surface level, TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES is definitely nice to look at but it's best to keep your expectation low if you're looking for an engaging romantic drama this Valentine's Day.

* This review is written courtesy from GSC press screening *

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