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Night Watch

A movie directed by Timbor Bekmambetov

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Fun flick, with a very inventive use of subtitles

  • Jun 20, 2006
I'm not going to comment on the film in general, since there are lots of reviews that have already done that. I enjoyed it quite a bit -- a nice and inventive twist on supernatural/superhero/good vs. evil themed films, with the advantage that cultural differences between the United States and Russia make this one feel a bit more quirky than the usual fare. While the film is obviously inspired by post-Matrix Hollywood sci-fi, its story and style are distinctive enough, and dark enough, to render it convincing that they come from a world apart from L.A., that conveys (in allegorical fashion) aspects of the tensions in Moscow that have emerged in the post-Soviet era. The most obvious thematic connection to its time and place -- but one this film also has in common with the best American film-noir -- is the way in which the film shows it can't be taken for granted that the "lawless" are evil while the "enforcers of law" are good (even when they describe themselves in that way). While the plot is not nearly as difficult to follow as some of the early reviews suggested, the film is at least willing (unlike many major Hollywood blockbusters) to assume that the audience is not composed of idiots who can't put two and two together. Easily as enjoyable (and maybe a bit more profound, given that it plays with ambiguities more effectively and is more unpredictable and inventive) as films like "Blade" "Blade II" "Hell Boy",and even some of the Batman films, and much better than much more expensive films like "Van Helsing" or "Chronicles of Riddick".

One thing I really liked about this film, that I haven't seen a lot of commentary on, is its inventive use of subtitles. This is one of the first subtitled films I've seen to actually do something interesting with them -- to let them carry some of the weight of the design rather than merely slap them on over the top of the film. Sometimes they change the color, to fit themes (e.g. red and dripping lettering, or blood red letters that dissipate like blood in water; or subtitles in other colors to match the composition of a shot), or they flicker or they are placed in different parts of the screen rather than merely at the bottom. This is something you see in a few early silent films, where intertitles are sometimes used in interesting ways, but I don't recall seeing this in any foreign films with subtitles.

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More Night Watch reviews
review by . June 16, 2008
Pros: Visually stunning, generally engaging plot      Cons: Requires close attention, story sometimes difficult to follow      The Bottom Line: First of a trilogy, has plot problems because of this, but is all in all worth the effort. The telling is stunning.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Before going into the story and analysis, I have to say that you have to be prepared to watch …
review by . December 26, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Based upon a novel by Sergei Lukyanenko, NIGHTWATCH is an action-packed, cinematically illuminating film from Russia about the individual decisions that people make and how those choices and affect the struggle between good and evil. The movie begins with a prologue explaining that there people who live in the world who resemble humans, but are not. These people are known as Others. The exist in our world, but also live in a plane separate from it. Others have an incredibly long lifespan and have …
review by . August 17, 2006
Night Watch is a refreshing take on the good versus evil battle, without yawning anthologies and preaching as its concise, to the point and draws the watcher in and doesn't let go unless some scenes are so obscure that you need to pause the TV and sit there and ponder the images that seared the brain. It's part one of a grand trilogy taking place in modern Moscow, unknown's to the humans there, a breeding ground for shape shifters who can turn into bears and tigers, vampires, sinister cursed characters …
review by . July 27, 2006
And after that it went all over the place. A number of reviewers stand correct on this film regarding its ups and downs base on the production. There are a number of movies you can describe this to. To me personally it was a blend of `The Matrix,' a dash of `Constantine,' with a hint of `Under World,' place it the oven you get `Night Watch' done in one hour and fifty four minutes.     It's hard to believe that this film was only done with $4 million, that's like pocket change …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #69
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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Night Watchis that rare film that--likeThe Matrix--is not only visually dazzling but creates an intriguing, seductive, and thrilling alternative world. A young man named Anton, after dabbling in black magic to bring back the wife who left him, discovers that the world is populated by fantastical Others (vampires, shape-shifters, witches, and more) who have chosen sides--Light or Dark--in an epic battle. A truce has been declared; both sides watch the other to ensure the truce is maintained. But a prophecy has predicted that a powerful Other will tilt the balance, and Anton--who is himself an Other--finds himself crucial to the prophecy's fulfillment. There's no question thatNight Watchhas weaknesses. Numerous plot holes get glossed over by pell-mell pacing, the visual conception of the apocalyptic battle between Light and Dark is curiously pedestrian (a bunch of knights fighting a bunch of guys in fur with swords--what happened to their various powers?), and more--but, much like similar problems withThe Matrix, it doesn't matter.

The alternative world Night Watch presents is so rich with possibilities that it takes on a life of its own, both as an imaginative universe and as a vivid metaphor for the moral complexities of our own lives--for example, though the forces of Light claim to be good, their often brutal actions call their virtue into question, and the forces of Dark make some compelling moral arguments on the topic. The movie is so overstuffed with ideas ...

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Director: Timbor Bekmambetov
Genre: Foreign
Release Date: 2005
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: June 20, 2006
Runtime: 1hr 45min
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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