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Night Watch

by Archives March 8, 2006

Grade: A

If foreign cinema was non-existent, film would be nearly obsolete. The truth about international movies is that they are often not as popular as the titles found in mainstream cinema. Still, there is magic to discover in subtitled films, as well is in black-and-white pictures. To ignore foreign films is to throw away the pearl and save only the oyster.

Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) opens in Moscow. The year is 1992. Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) arrives at an elder woman’s apartment and explains how he found her through an ad in the newspaper. The woman invites Anton into her decrepit living space. She understands the reason for Anton’s visit before he can articulate it. His wife has left him and he wants to win her back. The old woman believes she has the answer to Anton’s problem, and claims eliminating the child that Anton’s wife is expecting will bring his spouse right to him. What does Anton know? He is desperate, and accepts her services. The mysterious woman pokes Anton’s finger and gathers some of his blood with other liquids in a small cup. She stirs the whole and asks Anton to drink it as part of her intense ‘black magic’ ritual. But good forces known as the Light Others unexpectedly enter the apartment, interrupt the woman’s rite, and end it.

This is an influential film because the story brings together its mythology and superhuman characters. Films have always been about details, small and big, and Night Watch is, before all things, a meticulous work. It paints a distinct world, a unique vision of the future, as did The Matrix films. And as long as you’re willing to suspend your beliefs for two hours, you will be astounded by the beauty of this epic tale. We expect a film that is uselessly loud or crammed with superfluous explosions; the kind of picture that prioritizes the technology of surround sound instead of the viewer. But no, Night Watch cares about its audience and demonstrates the rich entertainment values that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Andrei Tarkovsy’s Solaris pioneered.

Sometimes, the less you know about a movie, the more you enjoy it and are surprised by it. Many will wonder why this analysis of the film was not centered on the film’s plot. The less you know about Night Watch before watching it, the more you will be thrilled by it. This is a motion picture filled with exhilarating special effects, drama, fine performances, clever editing and camera work, and it takes no wrong steps. No aspect of the film is neglected. If Night Watch has one thing to say, it’s that the Russians are here and it’s time we gave them our time first and then our dollar.

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