NIGHT WATCH (NOCHNOY DOZOR)
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
What's it about
A group of supernatural vampire-esque beings called the "Others", split into two factions are breaking a sacred treaty they had kept for hundreds of years. A timesplitting war ensues.
Is it good movie?
I had high hopes for Night Watch. When I had first seen the trailer many moons ago, I was blown away by the movie's concept and highly stylized look. Now that i've had the chance to see it, did the film hold up to my expectations?
Unfortunately not, but to be honest with you, that might be more my fault than the film's. Night Watch is a russian film, and the dubbing is actually quite good, for the most part. There are some translation problems, and some lame voice acting, but the principal characters have great voiceacting counterparts, which is very important.
The visual effects in this movie are awesome, and its not even so much the effects as the way they are used. One of the 'light' squad, our hero, does not feed on humans very often, and one particular scene in a subway car shows a potential victim. The victim's skin and muscles are stripped away, and we only see the series of veins that makes up his circulatory system, and the heartbeat that makes them pulsate. I thought that was one of the coolest things i've ever seen on film. The editing and camerawork are also awesome, to boot. The battles were awesome, especially near the end, and there's some good gore to be found for fans as well.
Here's where my personal problem with the film comes in, and I suppose it's not really a criticism I can level, but more of an opinion. Night Watch is tremendously original, and rather groundbreaking, but the problem is that it tries so much at once. There are so many little plots and details going on that it's very hard to follow. I watched this film with a couple of people, and we all agreed that while what we saw on film was freakin' cool, we didn't know anything that was going on, besides the basic concept of the film- dark vs light, and even that could be confusing at times. We had owls turning into people, stuff was that weird. I can't say I didn't enjoy the crazy twists and turns, but the movie was so strange that I got lost a few times.
My confusion could also be attributed to the subtle and rather low-key performance of the movie's 'hero', Konstantin Khabensky, which was so understated. It became hard to read any emotion from the guy at certain points, which didn't help me much.
I would imagine that for the right person, this movie could be everything they were looking for and more, it should be interesting to see how the other two sequels pan out.
Video / Audio
This one's a flipper disc, with video presentations in both anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and Full Screen 1:33:1 presentations of the film, and looks fantastic, a truly epic transfer.
The audio comes in English 5.1, Spanish Surround, Russian 5.1 and French Surround, and sounds just as good as the transfer looks (at least the English one does!)
We get two commentaries..sort of.
The first is a commentary of the extended ending by director Timur Bekmabetov, and the whole thing comes off sort of awkwardly, as there's a clear language barrier. It's not overly informative and entirely skippable.
The second commentary is a text-only commentary by Night Watch's author, Sergei Lukyanenko, and its chock full of goodies for fans of the film. I've always liked text commentaries because you can actually still hear the dialogue while reading fun facts about the film. Perhaps the producers should have followed suit with Bekmambetov's commentary as well.
We also get an Inside Look EPK on the new Omen remake, and a look at the Night Watch sequel, Day Watch, both of which are watchable, but fairly standard stuff.
The video and audio quality of this disc are benchmarks for any collection, and the film itself goes a mile-a-minute. While I may not have understood everything I saw, all one would have to do is put this movie on mute, you could still easily sit back and be entertained by it.
There is a lot to take in in Night Watch, and it deserves your attention, if for nothing else, simply for its ingenuity and eye-popping special effects.