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Triumph in the Skies
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by Jay Seaver

"Well, at least break-even in the skies."
3 stars

There's a shiny new Shaw Brothers logo among the vanity cards before "Triumph in the Skies", likely because it's a spinoff of a TV show that ran on Hong Kong's TVB network, which was also founded by the late Sir Run Run Shaw, about ten years ago. It's the furthest thing from the grindhouse action that the name conjures for Western audiences, a slick modern-day drama that plays well enough for those who haven't seen the series and probably a bit better for those who have.

Apparently, that show was built around the tension between Jayden "Captain Cool" Koo (Julian Cheung Chi-lam) and Sam Tong Yik-sum (Francis Ng Chung-yu), but as the series starts, they've gone their separate ways, with safety-conscious Sam one of Skyline Air's top pilots and Jayden flying a private jet. The airline is merging with another headed by the father of pilot Branson Cheung (Louis Koo Tin-lok), who has a history with Skyline flight attendant Cassie Poon Ka-sze (Charmaine Sheh See-man). Meanwhile, Sam is stuck being a consultant to a commercial starring pop star TM Tam (Sammi Cheng Sau-man), while Jayden has caught the eye of party girl Kika Sit (Amber Kuo Cai-jie).

In the background, there's another couple - Tony and Winnie - that I presume must have been part of the show but who wind up very far in the background of the Jayden/Kika story. Despite all three (or four) threads spending a lot of time in England, they almost never intersect except for a couple of conversations between Sam and Branson, and the thread about the merger is not just superfluous but seems odd - why is a presumptive executive of the merged company being moved into the cockpit during what seems like it would be a crucial period for the business? It's often three short films interrupting each other.

They're pretty entertaining short films, though. Francis Ng and Sammi Cheng get the funniest material as a mismatched couple who spin a lot of charm out of a slight story - they and their characters genuinely seem to be having fun with it, which counts for a lot in this sort of story. Julian Cheung and Amber Kuo try for that, and get there in a few sequences, although the bit that gives their story a little weight doesn't show up until a bit late (Kuo is also stuck saying "Captain Cool" like it's a reasonable thing to call a person quite a lot, and I'm hoping that sounds less silly when it's not the only part of a sentence one understands). Louis Koo and Chamaine Sheh get the story which serves as the movie's spine, and they're an affable pair, not overdoing the melodrama but feeling like they've got the sort of history that will draw them back together even without the flashbacks.

The film around them is spiffy-looking - Hong Kong movies don't often get the chance to film this far afield, and Wilson Yip Wai-shun takes good advantage of it. He and writer Matt Chow Hoi-kwong stage good their scenes with a lot of polish without smothering their movie. It's not quite enough to make "Triumph in the Skies" a great movie - the stories are thin, and they don't build it up enough - but it certainly lubricates it.

I've got no idea how well this plays for fans of the original "Triumph in the Skies" series; given how well-regarded it seems to be, I'm guessing the film doesn't quite measure up. It's still enjoyable enough that those who are starting here can see why it was a hit, and wouldn't make a bad airplane movie itself.

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originally posted: 02/23/15 16:22:25
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Directed by
  Wilson Yip
  Matt Chow

Written by
  Matt Chow

  Louis Koo
  Sammi Cheng
  Charmaine Sheh
  Francis Ng
  Julian Cheng
  Amber Kuo

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