“Night Watch! Everyone step out of the Twilight!”
Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) was quite a significant movie event in Russia when it first came out in 2004, partly because it was an important advancement for Russian movies with respect to special effects. It also went on to become the highest-grossing ever Russian release. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (you might know him as the director of Wanted) and based on the book by Sergei Lukyanenko, Night Watch is a fresh and gritty look at the age-old conflict between good and evil.
The movie starts off with a battle set in medieval times, between the army of light, lead by Geser (Vladimir Menshov), and the army of darkness, lead by Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitskiy). These armies are made up of the Others – people with supernatural powers, and creatures like vampires and shape-shifters. Their forces are equal, and seeing that neither side can win, Geser and Zavulon come up with a truce that divides the Others into Night Watch and Day Watch, to make sure that each side keeps to the rules. In the modern day Moscow, Geser and Zavulon are heading the Night Watch and Day Watch respectively. The story now focuses on Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabenskiy) as he becomes a witness to the arrest of a witch by the members of Night Watch. The odd thing is, he can see them and usually people are not able to, since the Others move through the Twilight, a shadow world. Anton turns out to be the Other too, and as the movie fast-forwards twelve years, Anton joins the Night Watch. On one particular night, he has to deal with a vampire problem, which becomes a starting point for many seemingly unconnected events.
I am a big fan of Sergei Lukyanenko’s books (Night Watch is a first one in the series of four), and, while the movie and the book are two quite different things, the movie stands well on its own, with a great ensemble of actors and some interesting special effects. The scenes using CGI are not extremely flashy, instead, the effects blend in with the real settings and actors just adding a supernatural touch to the scenes. For instance, in a scene where an owl transforms into a woman, with the feathers retracting into her skin, the special effects are surprisingly seamless, making it all the more realistic. The soundtrack is worth mentioning, ranging from almost hard rock sounding themes in some scenes to the lyrical violins in other scenes. Night Watch definitely makes for a great example of urban fantasy, with Moscow and its atmosphere almost becoming another character in the movie. The supernatural is blended masterfully with the mundane, and certain aspects of Moscow’s architecture add greatly to the mood.
I would suggest watching Night Watch with subtitles instead of the dubbed version, just because it is much more interesting to hear the actors’ real voices. Besides, the subtitles usually are closer to the real meaning of the dialogue than the dubbed versions.
What I found really interesting about this movie, is that it constantly asks a question: is there really that big of a difference between the Night Watch (light) and the Day Watch (dark)? Decide for yourselves, and discover the secret world of the Others.