Friday, July 21, 2006

Night Watch

Title: Night Watch -aka- Nochnoy Dozor (2004)
Dir: Timur Bekmambetov
Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Let's get one thing straight: this isn't a horror movie. It's an epic fantasy. If you're expecting vampires ripping out throats and crossbow-slinging slayers, Night Watch won't help you. But if you like dazzling visuals and a classic good-vs-evil story, well you are in for a treat.

Months ago, I was screwed out of my chance to see this movie in a theater, and that pisses me off all the more now because I really enjoyed this one. And seeing it with subtitles would have been nice (the DVD didn't give me that option). Though I gotta admit, the dubbing was actually pretty good on this one. But I digress.

Night Watch is about an age-old battle between "light" and "dark". The idea is, there has always existed non-humans called "Others", which are divided into light and dark factions. Both sides have powers, whether they be shapeshifting, mind control, whatever. The dark side also includes some vampires. In ancient times, the two sides had a fierce battle which resulted in a truce: each would not interfere with each other, or humans. Furthermore, the light others formed a "night watch" to enforce the truce, while the dark others formed a "day watch."

This film, the first of a trilogy, focuses on the Night Watch and their recruitment of a seer named Anton. I don't want to reveal any more about the plot, but in a nutshell, it involves some inevitable truce-breaking and an impending apocolypse.

The story is pretty damn cool - the makings of a real epic. I can see why the Russians flipped for this film. But what really sets it apart is the visuals. Bekmambetov does some wild, original stuff to create this fantasy world. I don't think I could describe them in words even if I wanted to, but trust me, it's good shit.

As for the cast, I liked everyone. The actor playing Anton - whose long, unpronouncable name I'd rather not look up right now - is awesome and reminds me a bit of Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck). The leader of the Dark Others is pretty kickass, too.

Night Watch may take an extra viewing to absorb everything. As soon as I finished the movie, I had the urge to pop it back in again, both to explain some things, and because it was just so neat. I don't feel it was perfect, but I really can't recall any flaws right now. I guess some people would dismiss it as big budget Hollywood-esque trash disguised as foreign cinema, but I don't feel that way at all. Yes, it's expensive. Yes, it's riddled with FX. Yes, it's occasionlly confusing. But it's also pretty damn cool.

Stay tuned for my review of the sequel, Day Watch!