สนับสนุนโดย สำนักงานศิลปวัฒนธรรมร่วมสมัย กระทรวงวัฒนธรรม Supported by Office of Contemporary Art And Culture ,Ministry Of Culture

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First Flight
 

By Sorradithep Supachanya / 31 Janurary /

   
 



First Flight
falls into a common trap of many Thai historical dramas, which try so hard to glorify Thailands past and invoke some sense of national pride among the 21st century audience that the movies regularly lose their focuses on the human stories and instead end up being bland, soulless documentaries more suitable for school uses. What makes this latest big budget offering from veteran director Thanit Jitnukul (Bangrajan) even more disappointing is that the story is already rich in human elements that could avoid this trap altogether and transform the movie into a heartfelt, inspiring film about defying disbeliefs and realizing your once-impossible dreams.

First Flight recounts the early days in Siamese aviation history when a visionary Thai colonel Luang Kaj Yutthakan (Kajornsak Ratananisai) and a French captain Pierre Pouron (real-life pilot Tom Claytor) struggled against skepticisms, local oppositions, budget cuts, and, for comic relief, occasional buffalo troubles to create what is to become todays Royal Thai Air Force. Equally passionate about chasing dreams was Duang (veteran television soap opera star Sornram Theppitak), a poor farmer boy who aspired to be among the fleets first pilotspositions the government had deliberately reserved for commissioned military officers with good family names and powerful connections.

But, instead of this celebration-of-the-human-spirit story that the movie could have been, it ends up being a forced mash up of abruptly intertwining subplots with a supposedly patriotic finale. Perhaps the problem lies with a lack of details and access into the characters minds. For example, while we see how Luang Kaj persists against numerous odds in creating the aviation department, we never know what sacrifices he has to make or why he does so. Similarly, we learn that Monsieur Pouron is still haunted by his past of an apparently fatal aircraft accident involving his co-pilot wife, but the movie fails to build on it and thereby renders a supposedly pivotal circumstance irrelevant.

On top of this, the movie introduces Duangs object of affectiona headstrong aristocratic girl Malai (newcomer Wimuttiporn Thongmak) who prefers mechanics and planes to knitting and cooking. Yet, the plot does not seem to know what to do with her even though she could potentially play another empowering role of a woman fighting to break out of the traditional confinement. Moreover, after having endured long and unnecessary courting scenes of the two lovebirds, we wonder where she disappears to in most of the second act.

Duang is by far the more developed character among the three leads. We learn about his passion for planes: how he sacrifices his petty officers salary to work for free as a mechanic assistant to the French captain just to get close to the wondrous flying machines, or how Monsieur Pouron takes


him under his wings and teaches him the arts and sciences of flying off the classroom. There is also a brief but touching scene about his parents finally come to accept his pilot aspiration. Yet, the movie fails to capitalize this asset and in the third act follows a rather unrelated subplot about the courage and the patriotic spirit of these first Siamese pilots who fought alongside the French air force in the First World War.

Shortcomings like these strip dimensionality from characters and make them largely unsympathetic to the audience. First Flight may succeed in transporting the audience back to the bucolic Bangkok suburb nearly a century ago but seriously fails in depicting believable, identifiable characters. How can we have an inspiring tale if we cannot identify with its characters vision, conviction, and the triumphant spirit of hope and human potential?

   
 

 

 

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