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Night Watch (Nochnoy dozor) (2004)

  Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Written by: Timur Bekmambetov, Laeta Kalogridis, Sergei Lukyanenko
Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Valeri Zolotukhin
Links: Night Watch on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Book
Genre: Suspense/Horror/Thriller

This movie gets: 7.50 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 81st of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Sci-fi that's all about the style" - a review by pearly

The story of Night Watch is a rather convoluted one that barely makes sense whilst you are watching it, let alone making any attempt to explain the story in great detail for a review of the film. Suffice it to say that there are goodies (Light Others) and baddies (Dark Others), and that it is, essentially, a vampire film.

Vampire films aren't really my thing. But there were a few things that really grabbed me about this film. Firstly, it's a Russian film, and not having seen many (any) other films from this region, I enjoyed the scenery and the general look of the backgrounds of the shots. Due to the direction of the film, these types of things were emphasised, making them more than just purely backgrounds.

This leads in to the other major thing that I enjoyed about the film, and that was the overall style of it. Night Watch wasn't filmed with a Hollywood budget, but it comes across as a stylised blockbuster of a film. As Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) first discovers that he has super-human powers, and he makes his decision to go with the Light side, the visuals are messed with to show what's doing on in Anton's head. Throughout the film, there's a kind of saturation to the colours which give the whole thing a little bit of a surreal feeling. And in the translation from Russian to English speaking countries, the subtitles have been handled with real style - the words move around and disappear behind moving objects in a really innovative and totally cool way.

It was these types of elements that I enjoyed more than than the content of the film itself, and I initially thought that I was going to struggle with the whole thing, and I didn't like the sounds of it much based on the English language introduction (the film is in Russian, but sandwiched at either end with an English narration which introduces and wraps up the tale - I am not sure how this section was handled in the Russian version). I wonder whether other people would be turned off from the very start, and not follow the film through, but I personally found that it didn't end up being as uninteresting as I had first envisaged it may be.

Again, focussing on style, we have the use of music in the film. The action scenes bring with them a surge in the volume and speed of the background music, and suddenly the whole film has shifted and you're pinned to your seat with the thumping of some kind of heavy techno type song. The way that everything ties together stylistically is the real strength of this film, and is likely to grab any regular movie-goer due to its innovative approach. Purely on this level, the film is worth a look. And if you like vampire movies, well that's just a bonus.

It will be interesting indeed to see the path that these films take, as this is actually the first in a trilogy. Night Watch 2 (2006) is now complete, and begins screening at the start of 2006, whilst Night Watch 3 (2007) has Hollywood backing, so with that extra money being thrown at it, we'll see what happens.

pearly gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 19 Oct 2005

"Fantasy science-fiction, Russian style" - a review by timchuma

The Others are humans who live amongst us, but have special abilities that set them apart from everyone else. Of course, any gift of nature can be abused, so there are 'Dark Others' who like to do nasty things and the 'Light Others' who try to keep them in line. When we first meet the two groups, it is the darkest part of the Middle Ages and they are fighting to the death on a bridge. The only problem is that the sides are evenly matched and it can only lead to them both being wiped out, so Gesser (Vladimir Menshov) calls a truce with the leader of the dark side, Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky) and they negotiate a peace.

Cut to 1992 and the situation has remained the same for centuries, with the light Others becoming the "Night Watch" to enforce the truce and the dark Others being the "Day Watch". What I liked about the story is that the line between good and evil is not that well defined. The Night Watch are righteous, but are very morally ambiguous as they 'licence' the dark Others to become vampires, then send unwitting victims to their doom so they catch the dark Others breaking the truce.

One such victim is Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) who goes to a dark Other 'fixer' to get back at his girlfriend for leaving him. When the Night Watch raids the place, we find out that Anton is also an Other who has the power of 'seeing'.

Twelve years later, Anton is a member of Night Watch, whose job it is to track down dark Others who are breaking the truce. To do this, he has to drink blood, which messes with his brain. He manages to track down the 'vampire', but he rashly decides to go in alone while his support team is racing across town in their super-charged utility truck. A nasty confrontation ensues, which leads to the death of the Dark Other, Anton being severely injured and the rest of the Dark Others turning against him.

As time counts down to the opening of a vortex around the prophecied cursed virgin and the final battle between good and evil, the Night Watch tries to stop it happening. Will the end of world be averted? You will have to find out for yourself.

While some of the themes here may be familiar to those of you who are fans of the vampire genre, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the way it is presented here is very different. For starters, it is much grittier and darker and very Russian. (I liked the scene where the power plant workers were boiling sausages on the nuclear reactor.)

The way the two sides are presented is also really well done. The Night Watch use the 'City Lights Company' as cover and so are the maintenance men of the two, while the Day Watch are all nightclub owners, musicians or other night owls. Also, Zavulon is a great name for the Day Watch leader and I liked his Doberman.

Proving that Russian production can match that of Hollywood, the special effects and stunts are very well done. The only thing is that the editing in some of the fight scenes was a bit annoying. In particular, I liked the 'transformation' of some of the characters like Tiger Cub and Olga, and I wish there had been more of this kind of thing in the movie.

As this movie is based on a trilogy of novels by Sergei Lukyanenko, I am sure they are planning at least two sequels and I will be looking forward to them when they come out. I would recommend this movie to science fiction and fantasy fans who would like to see a story set in a contemporary context.

timchuma gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 22 Jul 2005

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 7.50
Lowest rating: 7 (by pearly)
Highest rating: 8 (by timchuma)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. Night Watch 2 is the next movie.. they're doing two movies for each book.

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from m1k3y ( on Fri 22 Jul 2005 14:52 #

  2. very cool film!!!
    Great plot, very philosophical after 2nd look, but very packed - so not easy to get all the thought out of it- just because its really very actionpacked!

    A comment from Rakot on Sat 03 Sep 2005 21:57 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 9.00 (1 rating)

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