Night Watch (List Countdown : 1 Down 29 To Go)

''Just after we've lived through LORD OF THE RINGS and we can't even imagine another movie spellbinding us, along comes Timur Bekmambetov's fantasy masterpiece. Like Ridley Scott, Timur is an astonishing visionary and NIGHT WATCH is an epic of extraordinary power. If you have only one movie to watch this year, this should be it." -Quentin Tarantino

"NIGHT WATCH: for those lovers of goth kinetic, be safe in the knowledge that NIGHT WATCH is on its way and the bar has been truly raised. Full, (and full is the word to describe the first half especially) of extraordinary and delicious filmmaking, NIGHT WATCH is the biggest grossing movie ever in its homeland Russia. It will have Tarkovsky spinning uncontrollably in his grave - or was he cremated? No matter. He will know, as viewers of NIGHT WATCH now do, that we mere humans are surrounded by angels of light and dark in constant battle around us. You will have to wait until October but then you will see the greatest use of a frying pan (and a very hot one at that) in modern cinema." -Danny Boyle

Those 2 testimonials above from 2 of the greatest directors of our time should be enough reason for me to watch Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) , a sci-fi fantasy thriller from first time director, Timur Bekmambetov.

The background: Night Watch is the first installment of a trilogy based on Sergei Lukyanenko's best selling sci-fi novels which also includes Day Watch and Dusk Watch. The movie made massive business in Russia, surpassing Spiderman 2 in box-office returns.

The story : It's kinda' hard to explain but here's what has to say - In the world, there are humans and there are Others - who can pass as humans but are in effect a grab-bag of seers, wizards, shape-shifters, and vampires "as varied as the stars in the sky." The Others are divided up (easily enough) into those that serve the Dark and those serving the Light. A long time ago, they fought each other to a standstill in a massive battle, and so established a truce whereby they could co-exist with each other, only they each had to basically leave the humans alone. To ensure that each side is living up to its end, they each patrol the human sphere, Dark Others on the Day Watch and Light Others on the Night Watch.

The disconcerting start to what we can already tell is going to be a pretty big showdown between good and evil is the appearance of Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky), who's despondent over his ex-girlfriend being with another man, standing at the door of a woman he thinks to be a witch doctor of some sort but turns out to be a Dark Other trying to influence him to do evil. At the moment of her apprehension by the Night Watch, Anton discovers he is an Other himself. And so cut to Moscow, 2004, with a hollow-eyed Anton on duty with the Night Watch, using his limited abilities of foresight to help find a kid who is being hunted by a couple of Dark Other vampires. Events snowball in a mazelike fashion and soon it looks like the kid might have something to do with a prophecy about an Other who will come and tip the balance between Dark and Light, smashing the truce and returning the tribes to constant warfare.

The Verdict: Brilliant. It's like nothing that I have ever seen. For me, the greatest thing about watching a movie is when you witness something that is ground-breaking. Remember the first time when you watched The Matrix? Or Lord of The Rings? I had that same feeling while watching this Russian gem. Russian movies for me..( I had seen a few) has always been this slow moving, dialogue-driven, moody drama so seeing Night Watch is a breath of fresh air. The pace was fast thanks to the razor sharp editing that reminded me of David Fincher with a little bit of Darren Aronofsky's Requeim for A Dream. Visually, the movie is stunning. Without the benefit of a big budget special effects house, it still manages to create a highly stylized atmosphere with some great special effects. There is one magnificent scene that I really admire that follows a bolt from a flying aircraft right into a cup of coffee (..curious?). It's an eye-candy complete with blood, gore, flying-kicks, nifty moves and a cool soundtrack with a dose of punk attitude. Now that's cool, if you ask me.

One of the most enjoyable aspect of the film is the way it grounds its parallel fantasy universe in the everyday life of post-Communist Moscow. The Night Watch has its HQ in the run-down offices of the city's lighting utility company; vampires and ordinary humans alike live in scuzzy city centre tenements or suburban high-rise blocks; the Night Watch patrol drives around in a battered armoured truck which, though jet-propelled, still has to deal with the Moscow traffic. You have to see this truck move, man. A definite rival to Hollywood's Fast And The Furious.

There's even a hint of political sub text playing beneath the storyline satirizing the leaders of the world that seperate the world between 'good' and 'evil'.
Most of the Dark Others all look like mobs or hooligans. On the other hand, the Light Others look like they haven't slept for days in an out-of-date attire, with alcohol problems (these vampires drink both vodka and blood). The Light Others clearly represent the working class generation while the Dark Others represent the organized crime that has rule our way of life in certain part of the world.

I have only 2 complaints - some questions in this movie are left unanswered. I guess it's a good thing considering that this is the first part of a trilogy. It definitely makes me want to see more. And the second complaint is Nescafe's very annoying marketing strategy. Yes, Nescafe. Watch the movie and you'll understand why.

Final Say: Is this movie overhyped? Does it live up to it's expectations? When a movie is so overhyped it can never live up to ones expectations and this certainly is no new Lord of the Rings or The Matrix if you'd ask me. Making remarks like that makes people watching a movie expecting a life-altering experience and leaving most of those people behind rather disillusioned after seeing the movie. Knowing all these facts before seeing a movie like this will make you watch without expecting too much which will prevent you from being disappointed afterwards unless the movie in question can be summarized as one big disappointment. Luckily Night Watch never came across as disappointing or anything like that. Night Watch is a cinematic feast. Quoting Tarantino again, 'an epic of extraordinary power'. Pheww..!


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