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The Legend of King Naresuan Part I: Hostage of Hongsawadee
(aka Kingdom of War: Part 1)
2007; directed by Chatrichalerm Yukol

Thailand's most expensive film production to date, The Legend of King Naresuan (recently released in North America as Kingdom of War) is a sprawling biographical tale of the titular king, who is still regarded as one of Siam's greatest rulers. This initial entry in the trilogy concentrates on Naresuan's youth, where he was held captive in the kingdom of Phitsanulok.

During this period, Naresuan (played by Suchada Chekly) became a surrogate son to Phitsanulok's king, Thamaracha (Chatchai Plengpanich), and is put under the tutelage of the wise monk Kanchong (Sorapong Chatree). Through these father figures, Naresuan begins to learn the art of war, while his dedication to the land of Siam is bolstered through his friendships with Boonting (Jirayu La-Ongmanee) and Maneechan (Suchada Chekly), both of whom would become prominent figures themselves later in Naresuan's own kingdom.

The Legend of King Naresuan Part I  The Legend of King Naresuan Part I

Legend of King Naresuan Part I's emphasis on a story surrounding children, and not large-scale battles, might make this seem like it would be a boring film. But that is not the case at all, mostly due to the strength of the actors. Normally, I am not a fan at all of child actors, since their work veers towards the screechy and whiny side of the spectrum. However, the young people here display a maturity seldom seen from actors of their age, and that goes very far into making the movie more compelling to watch, as the audience actually becomes invested and interested in the characters' fates.

The film isn't without its' problems. Namely, at two hours and forty-five minutes, it can feel a bit long at times, especially since there is no real payoff at the end. Similar to the Red Cliff movies, both the first and second parts were filmed together and then released separately. This may lead to viewers feeling a bit cheated by the time the end credits roll, since it is really more of a cliffhanger setting up part two versus bringing any sort of real resolution to the story. But if one can get past that and has the time to sit down with the sequel, Legend of King Naresuan Part I is an engaging historical drama that represents some of the best elements of the genre.


Kingdom of War Part 1

Blu-ray Information

This release, from Magnolia's genre label Magnet, is the uncut Thai version, running 226 minutes, and is presented via a 1080P picture at a 1.78:1 ratio. Audiowise, the Thai soundtrack is encoded in DTS-HD, with English and Spanish subtitles available. Extras include two featurettes (in standard definition) that run for a total of twenty minutes, and trailers for the film and other Magnolia releases.

The Blu-ray is being sold on its' own or bundled together with Part 2 as a two-disc set. Both versions can also be purchased on DVD.

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