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I watched this thanks to a glowing recommendation by friend Qiao Yang and I doubt you need me to convince you to watch after reading what he has to say. I'll just add a few comments. The director of the film, Timur Bekmambetov, is something like a Kazakh version of Spike Jonze. He was best know for his stylish commercials before being hired to direct this trilogy, based on the novels of Sergey Lukyanenko, in the same way that Peter Jackson was handed the whole Tolkien trilogy. This first entry, which cost just $5 million to make, has every bit as distinctive and high quality a look as those peers manage with far bigger Hollywood budgets.

The conceit of the story involves an ages old struggle between beings known as the Others. They are people who seem human at birth but eventually discover that they have supernatural powers--shape-shifting, premonitions, etc.. Some choose to serve Darkness and they are led by General Zavulon. Others serve the Light and are led by Gesser. In the 14th Century the two sides met in epic battle on a bridge and when Gesser saw that they would all die he called a halt to the fighting and negotiated a truce with Zavulon. The terms of the truce require that new Others be allowed to freely choose which side they'll serve. The armies have been converted to the Day Watch and the Night Watch, keeping a careful eye on each other to make sure the agreement is observed. Both await the coming of a prophecied most powerful Other whose choice of sides may tip the delicate balance.

The film then skips ahead to 1992, when young Anton Gorodetsky visits a witch in order to win back his estranged wife. The witch tells him that while she can fulfill this desire the unborn child--that Anton didn't know about--was fathered by another man and will serve to pull her away from him again, so she needs to kill the baby for the spell to be truly effective. A somewhat disbelieving Anton consents, but in the midst of the spell-casting he seems to change his mind and a team from the Night Watch shows up to stop and arrest the witch before the abortion can be completed. The Night Watch recognizes that Anton is himself an Other and the film skips ahead to 2004, when he has joined them, for the bulk of the action.

In the current day storyline, Anton -- whose power includes visions of the future -- is tasked with finding two Dark Others, vampires who are using the Call to lure a young boy. During his search he encounters a woman with a literal dark cloud over her head. She's been cursed and nearly anyone she comes in contact with has some disaster occur to them. This curse is so powerful that she's triggering natural disasters too and a Vortex has centered around her that threatens to destroy the world. All of these stories are ultimately intertwined until the finale of the film when the great Other makes the choice between Light and Dark.

What I found almost as interesting as the film was the dichotomous reaction to it by critics. Beyond the obvious Manichean drama, the director has explained his vision of the film as follows:
For Bekmambetov, the members of Night Watch and their opposite members in the Day Watch represent two different, competing social philosophies. "They represent two different ways to live -- total freedom versus responsibility," he comments. "The Day Watch are the Dark Ones and they represent a kind of totally free independence, but the Night Watchers are all about responsibility and conscience. It's a dualism that's existed for a thousand years. It's a very old idea that you must consider the consequences of your actions."
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Emanuelle Levy)
And one character explains why some people would choose to become Dark Others thus: "It is easier for a man to destroy the Light inside himself than to defeat the darkness all around him." Yet Roger Ebert dismissed the plot, saying:
I confess to a flagging interest in the struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness. It's like Super Sunday in a sport I do not follow...
At the point where you've lost interest in questions of Good vs. Evil and the balance of Freedom and Security it seems fair to say that you've lost interest in what it means to be human. I can see someone not liking the movie or disagreeing with what it has to say about these issues -- and, of course, the all important matter of abortion is at the very center of the story -- but it's hard to comprehend not being engaged by them. That this film manages to entertain us so thoroughly while making us consider them is its very great strength.

(Reviewed:06-Jul-06)

Grade: (A)

Websites:

See also:


    -Science Fiction Writer: Sergey LUKYANENKO (Official Web Page)
    -Sergey Lukyanenko (Wikipedia)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Sergey Lukyanenko (IMDB.com)
    -PROFILE: Taking Tips: Are sex-filled thrillers up your alley, or science-fiction fantasies? Think fast, because the bestselling novelist Sergei Lukyanenko is accepting suggestions online. (Anna Malpas, November 19, 2004, Moscow Times)
    -Sergei Lukyanenko - Filmography (New York Times)
    -PROFILE: The Original NIGHT WATCH-Man (NICK HOLDSWORTH, Fangoria)

FILMS:
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Timur Bekmambetov (IMDB.com)
    -Timur Bekmambetov (Wikipedia)
    -INFO: Nochnoy Dozor (2004) [Night Watch] (IMDB.com)
    -INTERVIEW: 'Night Watch' Q&A with Timur Bekmambetov: Mark Salisbury catches up with the director of the most spectacular sci-fi film of the year (Mark Salisbury, Oct 4 2005, Time Out)
    -INTERVIEW: Night Watch - Timur Bekmambetov Interview (horror.com, 04-15-2006)
    -INTERVIEW: Timur Bekmambetov: Night Watch (Interviewed by Rachel Simpson, BBC)
    -INTERVIEW: It's The Matrix versus vampires; the trilogy begins now! Timur Bekmambetov on Night Watch (MovieWeb, 2/14/06)
    -INTERVIEW: Night Watch: Nocturnal and Unleashed in Los Angeles (Interview by Sonya Alexander, Underground Online)
    -INTERVIEW: Q&A With Timur Bekmambetov, Director of Night Watch: Straight from the horse's mouth (Buttonhole, 2 April 2006)
    -INTERVIEW: Exclusive Profile: DIRECTOR TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV COMES INTO THE LIGHT WITH NIGHT WATCH - PART 1: The director of the most successful Russian film ever, brings his unique world to the United States (CARL CORTEZ, 2/23/2006, iF)
    -INTERVIEW: Exclusive Profile: DIRECTOR TIMUR BEKMAMBETOV COMES INTO THE LIGHT WITH NIGHT WATCH - PART 2: From his sequels DAY WATCH and DUSK WATCH to his adaptation of the comic book WANTED, the director definitely has his plate full (CARL CORTEZ, 2/27/2006, iF)
    -ARTICLE: Universal loves Timur Bekmambetov (Martha Fischer, Feb 14th 2006, Cinematical)
    -ARTICLE: Timur Bekmambetov Finds a Home At Rogue Pictures (Variety, 1/19/06)
    -ESSAY: Great SF Writer You've Never Heard of: Sergei Lukyanenko (Aliens in this World, 9/14/04)
    -ESSAY: Return of the Russian blockbuster (Pravda, 2004-07-07)
    -ARCHIVES: Timur Bekmambetov (Find Articles)
    -FILM SITE: Night Watch (Fox Searchlight)
    -FEATURETTE: the whole movie in 2.5 minutes
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Night Watch (MetaCritic)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Night Watch (IMDB.com)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Emanuelle Levy)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Todd Hertz, Christianity Today)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Kenneth Turan, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Dolan Cummings, Culture War)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Anthony Lane, The New Yorker)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
I confess to a flagging interest in the struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness. It's like Super Sunday in a sport I do not follow...

    -REVIEW: of Night Watch
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (James Berardinelli, Reel Views)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Stephen Holden, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Ruthie Stein, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Sean Axmaker, Seattle post-Intelligencer)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher.com)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Philippa Hawker, The Age)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (AVRIL CARRUTHERS, InFilm Australia)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (LESLIE FELPERIN, Variety)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Film School Rejects, BlogCritics)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Adam Hakari, Reel Talk)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Andrew Wright, The Stranger)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (David Edelstein, New York)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Stephen Metcalf, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (J. Hoberman, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (JAMES EMANUEL SHAPIRO, Reel.com)
    -DVD REVIEW: of Night Watch (Stella Papamichael, BBCi)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Matthew Leyland, BBCi)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Philip French, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Colin Serjent, Nerve)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Luke Y. Thompson , Dallas Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (ABBIE BERNSTEIN, Cinescape)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Eric Hynes, Cinema Scope)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Claude Lalumi�re, Locus Online)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Beckett W. Sterner, The Tech)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (William R. Newcott, AARP Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (David DiCerto, Catholic News Service)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Nathan Rabin, Onion AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Kurt Loder, MTV)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (Stomp Tokyo)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Night Watch: Inhabiting a moral universe: I've heard about this Russian fantasy thriller for more than a year now. Made on a tiny budget , but sporting impressive and imaginative effects, this movie has won raves. (John Mark Butterworth, 3/01/06, Spero News)
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (
    -REVIEW: of Night Watch (
    -INFO: Dnevnoy dozor (2006) [Day Watch] (IMDB.com)
    -REVIEW: of Day Watch (David Austin, Cinema Strikes Back)
    -REVIEW: of Day Watch (LESLIE FELPERIN, Variety)
    -REVIEW: of Day Watch (Gabriel Powers, DVD Active)

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