Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Night Watch

I've been looking forward to this Russian flick for quite a while. It was supposed to come out nearly a year ago (it was released in 2004 in Russia) and was delayed a number of times. Sure it looked weird, it's subtitled in English (some people I know would rather commit seppuku than have to "read" a movie) and it features actors that we don't know here in the states. Well, it's finally getting a release. In order for Fox Searchlight to start building excitement for the flick they sent out invitations for free screenings all across the country. I happened to get one. WOOT!

Was it worth the trip to Chicago in freezing cold weather and the 12 block walk through the sub-zero winds? You bet your ass!
The story is that Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) has a grudge against his ex who ended up getting pregnant by another guy. He goes to a witch to have her cursed and during the ritual he becomes aware of a war that's raged for a millennia between the Night Watch and the Day Watch. The Night Watch, heroes of the light, spend all their time making sure that the Day Watch, villains of darkness (mostly vampires), hold up their end of a truce that's lasted for the past few hundred years. Andre is inducted into the Night Watch and 12 years later he becomes involved in an apocalypse that could destroy Moscow and spread to the whole world if he doesn't find the one person who's been prophesied to cause it.

One guy against a pending Armageddon sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? Well, it is, but the movie is played out in such a way that it seems fresh and original once more. At first the audience is kept in the dark about everything. I mean everything! It makes absolutely no sense for the first 30 minutes or so, but the film is so visually creative and fast paced that it really doesn't matter. You get caught up in it because just as Anton is learning about all this craziness that surrounds him we do as well. Once things become clear we are treated to some sweet action scenes, bizarre use of CGI (that “under the skin” effect was pretty damn cool), as many off-the-wall ideas as you can handle and one of the best endings EVER (I saw it coming but it rocked regardless).

Director Timur Bekmambetov is one of the most promising I've seen recently. He has a great handle on how to develop a story and characters both with dialogue and visuals. This has to be one of the best looking films I've seen recently as well. Sure everything is covered in a layer of grime and all that, but every frame is dense with style, which is something that I can attest to being extremely hard to accomplish. Even when I was confused with what was going on I still had a smile on my face because the movie is just so damned fun to watch (my brother said the same thing). Even the subtitles are friggin' awesome!
There are a few cons though. I'm guessing that there must have been something lost in the translation because a couple of events that transpire in the film happen with no explanation given. Also, exactly what the differences between the Night Watch and Day Watch are is never made completely clear. I'm guessing that some things are left open ended due to the fact that this is the first in a trilogy of films, so possibly down the line we'll be told the details.

Even though it's a combination of The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and Underworld, it's a highly enjoyable and creative flick that I can't wait to see again! Bring on part 2... Day Watch!!!!!!

4.5 out of 5

*written 2/18/06

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