|Night Watch (2006)
Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Mariya Poroshina
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
The first in a planned trilogy, “Night Watch,” written and directed by Russian Timour Bekmambetov, is a difficult movie to comprehend. Originally conceived as a television series, the film, which has become the highest grossing Russian film of all time, has a simple enough premise. Two forces, those of light and those of dark, have been waging war for centuries. Seeing that their power was exactly balanced, the two sides decide to form a truce. Those charged with policing the forces of light are the Day Watch, while those keeping the forces of dark in check are known as the Night Watch. Now in modern day, the fragile truce is threatening to break.
Seems like a simple enough story so why the in the hell does this movie seem like such a mess? The film is being shown in theaters in Russian with English subtitles (as it should be), but it seems that something has been lost in the translation. Just when you think you have the characters figured out something throws a wrench into the works. The forces of light and dark, or "Others" as they are called, are never adequately explained. The dark Others seem to be roaming the night as vampires but then Anton (Konstantin Khabensky), the protagonist of the film, seems to be one as well. Our deepest explanation of these two forces can be summed up in this translated dialogue from the film: “The forces of light are those dedicated to the light, while the forces of dark are devoted to darkness.” Riiiight…That’s much clearer now. Thanks.
Regardless of the film’s incoherence, it is interesting to watch. Movies of this subject matter are a dime a dozen in the United States, but the fact that it’s Russian-made adds a certain ambience to the film that makes it fun and unique. The overall style of the film is nicely captured with stunning cinematography and editing making for some cool action sequences. It would have been nice if the visuals had told more of the story, but there is more than one instance where the eyes and ears of the audience seem to be told different things.
It has taken “Night Watch” an extraordinarily long time to come to the States; its release date has changed with the tides. The movie came out in Russia in 2004 and with its success has come the greenlight for the two sequels. “Day Watch,” the first of the follow-ups has already been made and is currently showing in Russian theaters. Like many middle chapters there is the likelihood that some of the confusing aspects of the first film, which has laid an interesting, if jumbled, groundwork, will be better explained. These explanations will most likely be in Russian again, but if it’s going to be 2008 before America sees “Day Watch,” why not start taking Russian classes now?
A quick look at the list of special features on the DVD release of “Night Watch” might not extract much excitement, but of the few extras that do appear on the single-disc effort, all are excellent additions to the film. Along with an extended ending (with optional director commentary) and a short featurette on the future of the trilogy, the DVD also includes the standard director commentary (which is sometimes hard to understand due to Tibur Bekmambetov’s broken English), and an excellent subtitled commentary by Sergei Lukyanenko (author of the novels in which the films are based on) that offers an interesting view into his fantastical world.