Night Watch

"Very Good"

Night Watch Review


Once it receives its long due stateside release, the smash Russian fantasy epic Night Watch will inevitably be compared to The Matrix, most likely because of all the people running about a modern-day city (wearing sunglasses at night, no less) doing battle with forces that normal folks can't even see. Also, the film was a box office hit and the first in a planned trilogy. But truth be told, Night Watch has much more in common with the worlds created by fantasy novelist Neil Gaiman, most especially his classic Neverwhere (filmed for British TV) about a secret world existing just below the surface of everyday London. The two works share an abiding interest in the careful creation and delineation of complex universes of the unreal - not to mention a love of dark, shady places, and large-scale struggles between good and evil.

A sonorously narrated prologue gives us the lay of the land. In the world, there are humans and there are Others - who can pass as humans but are in effect a grab-bag of seers, wizards, shape-shifters, and vampires "as varied as the stars in the sky." The Others are divided up (easily enough) into those that serve the Dark and those serving the Light. A long time ago, they fought each other to a standstill in a massive battle, and so established a truce whereby they could co-exist with each other, only they each had to basically leave the humans alone. To ensure that each side is living up to its end, they each patrol the human sphere, Dark Others on the Day Watch and Light Others on the Night Watch.

The disconcerting start to what we can already tell is going to be a pretty big showdown between good and evil is the appearance of Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky), who's despondent over his ex-girlfriend being with another man, standing at the door of a woman he thinks to be a witch doctor of some sort but turns out to be a Dark Other trying to influence him to do evil. At the moment of her apprehension by the Night Watch, Anton discovers he is an Other himself. And so cut to Moscow, 2004, with a hollow-eyed Anton on duty with the Night Watch, using his limited abilities of foresight to help find a kid who is being hunted by a couple of Dark Other vampires. Events snowball in a mazelike fashion and soon it looks like the kid might have something to do with a prophecy about an Other who will come and tip the balance between Dark and Light, smashing the truce and returning the tribes to constant warfare.

Considering that Night Watch is a Russian film shot for reportedly about $5 million, it looks absolutely fantastic. The special effects are used sparingly but effectively, and most often for good reason (apparently it's hard to convince several thousand crows to endlessly circle the apartment building of a cursed woman). Director Timur Bekmambetov (he also co-wrote the script with Sergein Lukyaneko, who wrote the source novel) does first-rate work here, injecting just enough levity into an otherwise pitch-black universe, and always keeping viewers mindful of the vast world outside the scope of this one film, so that by the type you're hit with the hammer-blow finale, a strong desire to see the sequel is pretty well guaranteed.

Although one of the strongest features of the film is how simultaneously professional and yet unique-feeling it is (no Hollywood clone-work here, with the exception of too many CSI-esque special effects shots), where Bekmambetov could actually stand to take a few hints from The Matrix and the Hollywood machine is in how to shoot a fight. Although these are fairly sparse in a film that's packed fair to the gills with suspense and dread, Bekmambetov's idea of how to do one seems to be waving the camera about in a random fashion, leaving the viewer with little idea of what's happening. There will be plenty of those anyway, as Night Watch doesn't slow down to point out road signs to those who have to be spoon-fed every little hint - this is Brothers Grimm-type fantasy here, the forests are dark and you can easily lose your way if you're not careful.

Aka Nochnoy dozor. Reviewed at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival.

You take the first watch.



Night Watch

Facts and Figures

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 8th July 2004

Box Office USA: $1.4M

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight

Production compaines: Nightwatch Films, Brut Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 53

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Ellen Wheeler, as John Wheeler, as Sarah Cooke, Robert Lang as Appleby

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.