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Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

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 Quentin Tarantino.

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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