Night Watch (2004)
By: David Michael Brown on May 25, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Fox Searchlight (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Russian DD 5.1, English DD 5.1. English (FHI) Subtitles. 109 minutes
The Movie
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina
Screenplay: Timur Bekmambetov, Laeta Kalogridis
Country: Russia
What has Russian cinema ever done for us? The beard stroking experimentation of Aleksandr Sokorov's The Russian Ark? The ultra sterile sci-fi musings of Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris? Battleship Potemkin and Brian DePalma's favourite cinematic stairwell? All classics yes? But none that will get your average horror and fantasy fans heart racing.

Well that is all about to change with Timor Belmambetov's Night Watch. Based on the novel by Sergei Lukyanenko and the first film in a planned trilogy, the film tells the epic tale of the war waging on earth between the forces of light and dark. Eons ago a stalemate was met when both leaders realized that no one could win. This uneasy truce is kept as the vampires and shape shifters of the dark and the forces of light guard night and day respectively. Our hero, Anton, is a member of the Night Watch, a member of the light force who guards the night in Moscow. He soon realizes that the prophecy of the chosen one is coming true and that the forces of evil are gaining in strength ready for the last battle for earth.

The film is visually astonishing. The armies of darkness appear in our world in a variety of guises and give the FX team plenty of excuses to show off: dolls heads sprout legs and run around, a bus somersaults over some potential roadkill, the outline of a soldier's body made up purely of his veins. The fact that this film is such a low budget puts many a Hollywood fantasy film to shame. The imagination on display is awe inspiring. As clichéd as some aspects of the storyline are; the visuals, the pacing and the sheer gusto that everyone puts into the project give it a life. When ever the film gets bogged down with some heavy handed symbolism or convoluted plotting they hit you with some visual pyrotechnics. Not that it's all spectacle. The film manages some deeply disturbing moments. In particular, the queasy flashback when our "hero" tries to prevent the birth of his own unborn child. The combination of gritty realism and CGI extravaganza makes the film even more breathtaking.
The picture is sharp and clear. Some of the dark scenes feature a modicum of grain but overall it's very watchable.
The surround is dynamic in all the right places. The dialogue, in either the dubbed English or the original Russian is crisp and clear. A great punchy soundtrack to show of your sound system.
Extra Features
All you get is the trailer, lets hope a special edition will arrive be announced soon featuring the extras present on the US/UK DVD's.
The Verdict
It's like a breath of fresh air compared with your average Hollywood blockbuster. The effects, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy before it, are way beyond anything we have seen before and I'm sure will surpass anything we see in this summer's blockbuster line-up. It's no surprise that Night Watch is the biggest money making Russian film of all time, roll on part two.
Movie Score
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