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Triumph in the Skies

Sammi Cheng and Francis Ng in Triumph in the Skies.
Chinese: 衝上雲霄  
Year: 2015  
Director: Wilson Yip Wai-Shun, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong
Producer: Tommy Leung

Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong, Xu Lengfeng, Sin Tsz-Man


Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Sammi Cheng Sau-Man, Julian Cheung Chi-Lam, Charmaine Sheh Si-Man, Amber Kuo, Oceane Zhu Xuan, Dean Liu, Kenneth Ma Kwok-Ming, Elena Kong Mei-Yi, Jun Kung, Xin Ma, Liao Jinsheng

The Skinny: Gorgeous but empty big screen sequel to the popular TVB dramas. Despite solid star pairings, the stories are rushed and clichéd, and the music video style can only do so much. Also, it sucks that the filmmakers only brought back the male stars without even explaining what happened to the female ones. The reunion of all the major players from Bullets Over Summer, which could be the saddest thing ever.
by Kozo:
After two hit drama series, TVB goes for a box office blockbuster with a Triumph in the Skies movie – that’s awesome for fans! Whoops, maybe not. Like the second of the Triumph TV dramas, the film does away with existing relationships to add new romances. However, the male characters get to return, while the women die offscreen (the lead in the first Triumph, Myolie Wu, died before the sequel but came back anyway as an unrelated doppelganger) or are simply forgotten. The latter is the case for the movie; when we last left the stars of the drama Triumph in the Skies II, the big conflict was which Skylette Airlines pilot Holiday (Fala Chen) would choose. Would it be righteous dork Sam Tong (Francis Ng) or suave ladykiller Jayden “Captain Cool” Koo (Julian Cheung)? Holiday eventually decided, but it’s not like it matters. In the big-screen follow-up, Holiday is absent while Sam is instantly attracted to rock star TM (Sammi Cheng) and Captain Cool starts a whirlwind affair with mysterious party girl Kika (Amber Kuo). What gives? Is Holiday on holiday?

Sadly for fans, Holiday’s whereabouts are never revealed. The Triumph dramas and film are obviously big draws for women due to the male stars, but it’s still odd to make the males the only required characters. TV cast members Roy (Kenneth Ma) and Heather (Elena Kong) do make a return but both are merely glorified extras. The leading ladies? Gone, but look at the bright side: They didn’t have to participate in this crass cash-in. For the Triumph movie, screenwriter Matt Chow, who co-directs along with Wilson Yip (YES, THE DIRECTOR OF IP MAN), creates little more than an extended music video, with endless montages, faux-existential dialogue and long scenes of people gazing in the distance while an alt-rock soundtrack lays out the feels. Sam and Captain Cool return but never interact in this 100-minute fan-gasm; while Captain Cool is flying private jets and squiring Kika around England, Sam meets up with his friend Branson Cheung (Louis Koo), whose company has just taken over Skylette Airlines and he’s looking to make Skylette the best airline EVER.

Branson wants Sam to consult on a new ad campaign for Skylette, which is how Sam meets TM, a tattooed rocker who’s experiencing emotional burnout. TM actually doesn’t like Sam because of manufactured drama, but working on the commercial brings them closer, and the next thing you know they’re both in the UK, texting and giggling like junior high kids. On his end, Captain Cool is running all over the UK with Kika even though they just met. There’s a twist coming in their relationship and it’s telegraphed pretty damn hard, not to mention it’s a really overused drama cliché. Finally, Branson’s purchase of Skylette brings him into contact with Sze (Charmaine Sheh), a Skylette flight attendant who he once dated. A hackneyed drama trope tore them apart when they were students in the UK, but now they can rekindle their relationship again – and the location of said rekindling also happens to be in the UK! Wow, the United Kingdom is really the land of romance! Seriously, does Skylette fly anywhere besides Hong Kong and London?

Despite the clichés, there’s enough material here for decent romantic vignettes. Unfortunately, even with adequate performances, the stories lack the development to make the pairings more than glossy advertising fodder. Basically, each story involves characters thinking, “Hey, maybe we should get together.” Then they do, and that’s pretty much it. Granted, most cinema romances aren’t about whether or not the characters get together (because 9 out of 10 times they will), but instead about how they get together. The “hows” in Triumph in the Skies are uninteresting or glossed over; most of the couples go from acquaintances to suddenly dating without so much as a “Hey, you wanna go out?” exchange. The stories skip the steps that would make each romance more convincing or affecting. The exception to this is the Branson-Sze romance, which has the benefit of added backstory. Still, their story has little tension, plus it implies that it’s okay to make the love of your life wait ten years while you’re off flying planes and getting involved in mergers and acquisitions. Because big business trumps love.

Money over love isn’t the message of Triumph in the Skies, but the superiority of artifice over reality just might be. Besides the fact that everyone in the film dresses fabulously, the film looks absolutely, gratuitously gorgeous. Cinematographer Jason Kwan goes overboard with the filters, and probably earned a kickback from J.J. Abrams for his overuse of lens flares and overexposed whites. Also, shots are framed and styled to an astonishingly meticulous degree. If they want to give the film an alternative title, I suggest Jason Kwan Kicks Your Ass with His Instagram Skills. If nothing, he makes the already pretty stars even more beautiful, which may be all some audiences need to line up. There’s a market for vapid star-laden trifles like this, but anyone seeking quality or intelligence should watch Pokémon instead. At least that’s a hero’s journey about being the best like no one ever was. Triumph in the Skies is about disrespecting paying customers and cashing a check, and I see enough of that in regular life. By the way, Matt Chow and Wilson Yip once made Bullets Over Summer, also co-starring Francis Ng and Louis Koo. Your tears are real and salty. (Kozo, 2/2015)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
CN Entertainment Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Canotnese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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