Review: Night Watch (Nochoi Dozor)

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In Short: Yes, Yes, Yes! Artistically stunning, visually slick, Night Watch is what you want to see.

Extended Review: From Russia, with horror – this mind-bending masterpiece set in modern day Moscow is quite possibly greatest artistic piece of cinema in recent years. Night Watch manages to break free of Hollywood tricks of the trade, and craft imaginative and original takes on what is essentially a basic horror movie.

The movie follows hero Anton Gorodetsky, member of Night Watch, as he tries to protect a child named Yegor from the evil Zavulon. The plot is complex, with several plot lines coming together in the end. The characters on screen are all fascinating, and lend the movie to a second viewing. I must say, I watched the movie twice in quick succession. It is worth noting that I have never done this before, except with Serenity, my favourite movie ever. The plot is fast, the action gorgeous and the acting solid – especially from the lead character. Despite not understanding the language, his character is acted so strongly that you don’t need to; surely tell-tale signs of quality acting.

The cinematography is also very imaginative – stunning camera twists and jumps allow Night Watch to transcend beyond a movie into a moving piece of art, that just happens to have a story. Unlike stylish movies that look good, you get the impression that passion and love has been poured into the movie which, given its Russian background, it no doubt has.

The DVD release comes with two discs. The first disc contains the original Russian movie, and a dubbed English version. The second (which I believe is the version any Western fan should watch) is the original theatrical version released in the West, with Russian audio, subtitled in a revolutionary way. I will not spoil the subtitle style, but I will simply say that they are the most astonishing I have ever seen.

The audio is fantastic – you really feel the surround sound. It’s loud, sharp, clear and crisp.

A word of advice to readers, don’t just stick in Disc One and press play. Stick in the second disc, its a better experience with the artistic subtitles than standard DVD ones, and certainly I believe the movie must be watched in Russian for full effect.

I eagerly anticipate the sequel, and the third volume of the trilogy. On that note, I’d just like to explain something to readers. NIght Watch is the first part of a trilogy, but the story will essentially be wrapped up in two movies. The third movie will be filmed in English (thanks to a large monetary contribution from FOX), and act as a standalone part of the trilogy, for viewers who have not seen the previous films. It’s an issue that has caused much confusion, but I believe this is how it plays out. And for those of you who groan at a sequel, this is not simply flogging the cash-cow. It is the natural and essential follow-up to a cliff-hanger, much like The Two Towers to the Fellowship of the Ring. Speaking of Lord of the Rings, this movie made far more than the LotR’s Box Office gross in Russia.

Special Features and commentary are enlightening, and there is a fairly good range of material available.

Night Watch is a movie I will go out and buy, without hesitation, despite having already watched the review copy – it is a masterpiece that I hope to enjoy many times more.

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