Archive for the ‘Day Watch’ Category

Day Watch by Night, Night Watch by Day

January 15, 2008

In the beginning, there were forces of Light and of Dark, and one fine day, the two great armies met on a bridge and proceeded the beat the ever-living immortal crap out of each other, until it was decided by one of the Great Ones that the Dark people would watch over the Light (i.e., “Day Watch”) and the Light would watch over the Dark (i.e., “Night Watch”). And eons later, Timur Bekmambetov made a couple of movies on the theme of good versus evil: Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006).

In Night Watch, we meet Anton, a nervous young man who’s apparently found out that his girlfriend is having an affair while pregnant; Anton visits a crusty old Russian woman (the movies are set in Moscow) who claims she can cause a miscarriage justlikethat. But then things sort of go wrong, and things aren’t as they seem, and I feel safe in telling you that as a result of this meeting, Anton discovers he is one of the eternal ones involved in this timeless battle against the forces of dark – a Light One. Those of Light and Dark are known as Others – i.e., not humans – people with otherworldly powers who can exist on planes other than your typical Earth plane. And legend has it that some day a Great Other will basically break the longstanding tie between the Light and Dark Others, in essence tilting the battle one way or another.

It all sounds awfully Gothic, doesn’t it? Anton grows into a mopey, cynical agent of the Light, not entirely happy with his lot and keeping his emotions and desires fully in check. He works on a team of Light agents who patrol Moscow in heavy-duty all-purpose trucks to halt illicit Dark activity during the day.

Meanwhile, what of this Great Other? Are his or her talents completely latent at this point, or is he or she on one side or the other? The actions undertaken by Anton in that aborted arrangement with the old Muscovite set into action a chain of events whose importantance and relevance are not readily apparent until well into the second movie, Day Watch.

One interesting aspect about the production of the movies is that they both have the look and overall tone of a movie from 1980s Hollywood. I’m not sure if this is an intentional effect, or if the Russian film industry is still about a generation behind American moviemaking. I can’t quite put my finger on what made me think of the 1980s, but it was abstractions as lighting and the color of the film. Hey, all the agents have cell phones, so it’s surely not set IN the 1980s (in fact, the second movie is set in ’06, I believe.)

Both movies are a lot of fun, with the usual caveat about subtitled Russian movies in play. To be honest, with so much action going on – and some inventive, gory special effects – I hardly noticed the time it took me to read the subtitles. It’s not as if they’re crafting Dostoyevsky down there, you know. As as result, I focused much more on the action at hand and was able to follow along with things pretty well. Sometimes the plots get a little… complex, shall we say, but it’s never so out of reach that you want to give up on it and watch an old Yakov Smirnoff routine instead. (That would be dumb of you, and you’re not dumb.) Both movies are intense, visceral films and present a creative new take on a theme that’s popped up in myriad films over the entirety of the movie camera’s existence. The denouement in Day Watch at the party is something to watch – shades of The Omen and Phantasm, to be sure.

Night Watch (2004): ***
Day Watch (2006): ***