Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
HAVING enjoyed unprecedented success in its homeland, Russia,
Timur Bekmambetov's innovative vampire flick, Night Watch, now
makes its way into UK cinemas complete with a recommendation by
The Kill Bill director has urged that if you see only one film
this year, let it be Night Watch. High praise indeed but it's
not totally misplaced.
The film is indeed breathtaking at times, especially in the way
that it continually employs new techniques to put a different
spin on both the story and look.
But the fact that it is only part one of a trilogy, based around
the novels by Sergei Lukyanenko, does render it an unfinished
piece that occasionally feels like just the opening act.
The story is fairly convoluted too, kicking off with a monologue
that explains the history of the Others, a race of humans with
special powers that are divided into two distinct categories.
The Night Watch of the title exist on a day to day basis, representing
the light, while the Day Watch represent the dark and continually
threaten to upset the uneasy truce that has existed between both
sides for centuries.
According to prophecy, however, a single 'other' will arrive
to tip the balance either way, giving ultimate victory to the
light or dark once he has chosen which side to represent.
Hence, the ensuing film follows Night
Watch member Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) as he attempts to locate
this chosen one and protect him from the corrupting influence
of the dark side.
His mission is made more complicated, however, by the fact that
vampires persistently seek out the boy, while a cataclysmic weather
event is threatening to destroy Moscow unless the source of its
power can be established and neutralised.
Night Watch certainly keeps viewers enthralled with its high-concept
mix of story and set pieces and serves as a nice appetiser for
parts two and three.
What impresses the most, though, is the way in which it consistently
teaches Hollywood a trick or two about keeping things fresh and
innovative without the need to over-use special effects.
Several of the set pieces feel bone-crunchingly authentic, while
director Bekmambetov continually finds new ways to employ his
camera so that the film seldom feels as though it is copying anything
else for inspiration (just check out the way he uses the subtitles).
Even in terms of performance the film is pitched right, with
everyone registering strongly and appearing to revel in the fact
that the script offers no easy answers.
This is a dark, often disturbing piece that exercises the brain
as well as providing the eye candy.
It remains to be seen whether the forthcoming movies fulfil the
potential displayed here but the omens are certainly strong.
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