Seen many Russian films? No me neither, so when I saw that the film ‘Nochnoy dozor’ (English title Nightwatch) shown on the ‘now showing list’ at my local cinema I was pretty excited. After hearing the hype that it was the largest grossing film of all time in Russia I was even more excited; granted Russian cinema might be really shit, but still, it sounds impressive.
The concept is nothing short of epic. Basically Nightwatch is the first of a two part story set around a truce between the ‘Light’ and the ‘Dark’, groups of ‘Others’, or immortals to you and I, who coexist alongside unaware humans in our world today. Now, without going on to much, after a huge battle between the light and the dark (basically good and evil) a truce was made to stop both sides being annihilated. The truce saw that neither side could no longer actively recruit new ‘Others’ to their cause, the individuals must choose for themselves. To make sure both sides uphold the agreement the two factions watch one another. Those who watch the Dark are called Nightwatch whereas those who watch the Light are called Daywatch.
With that in place, the plot of the film Nightwatch surrounds a prophecy which speaks of a ‘Great Other’, one which will break the balance allowing the final battle to take place – and I think you can guess what happens to humans if the dark win. Various omens occur and through a series of paradoxes and irony we see that, despite all efforts, the confrontation cannot be avoided.
Now what makes this movie even more impressive is that basically instead of the ‘Others’ being simple people, they all have different powers which are basically taken from existing mythology; for example some of the dark others are vampires whereas the some light others are animorphs. Very cleverly, what director Timur Bekmambetov has in his hands is a film where basically imagination is the limits with the end result definitely being greater than the sum of its parts.
Just as the matrix was an action film in principle but much more in reality, Nightwatch is much more than a good versus evil film. The action sequences are at times breathtaking using surreal special effects and a blend of camera tricks and CGI to bring the fantasy world to life. Immersive is probably the best word to describe the whole thing.
Thankfully the version I have is kept in the native language with subtitles for English viewers and I urge you to get the same, god knows what the dubbing would be like! The acting is pretty good; especially when you consider that some of the actors have to play characters that have animalistic personalities. At times the dialogue does feel a little clunky but then I got to say as I don’t speak Russian it’s possible that I misunderstood the enunciations and you cannot always rely on subtitle translation being word for word.
Despite my positive opinion of the film so far ‘Nightwatch’ does have some short comings. The intricate plot and general surreal nature of some scenes does mean that at times it’s difficult to grasp what is going on and its only really after several viewings I fully understand all aspects of the film.
After an explosive opening the pace does drop to a bit of a crawl. This intermittent pace continues throughout the film and does get a bit frustrating, especially if you get lost in what is going on.
Overall though Nightwatch is an ambitious movie which has clearly been thought through, and it shows. Whilst not perfect it successfully collates a large amount of mythology into a conceivable fantasy world which is further enhanced with the good use of imagination and special effects. Despite the lack of big named actors, fans of ‘Constantine’, ‘Underworld’ and ‘Blade’ will not be disappointed. The cliff hanger ending sets the franchise up nicely for the sequel ‘Daywatch’.