Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Studio: Fox Searchlight/20th Cent. Fox
Video: 1.85:1 16:9 widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1: English, Russian, DD surround: French, Spanish
Subtitles: English captions, English/French/Spanish subtitles
Extras: Extended ending with optional commentary by Bekmambetov, Subtitled commentary by novelist Sergei Lukyanenko, Sneak peek at upcoming Night Watch sequels
Length: 114 minutes
The first of the proposed three-volume Russian horror-thriller series of features proves to mostly live up to advance billing. It takes the surefire horror genre into some original areas, and the acting, cinematography and special effects are all fully up to Western standards. There has been an agreed-on balance between the forces of Light and those of Darkness for centuries. The Night Watchers (those of the Light) police the Dark others, including vampires, witches and shape-shifters – whose domain is the nighttime. A woman suffers from a curse on herself and somehow becomes the vortex for the Apocalypse. Central to the age-old prophecy is that an immortal with special powers will chose either the Light or the Dark, triggering a war unlike any the earth has ever known.
A central figure is a policeman for the Light, trying to save a young boy who has been inveigled into a meeting with a pair of vampires; it turns out the boy is the man’s son. When the curse is magically lifted from the woman at the focus of the vortex it seems the film is winding up in a typical Hollywood happy ending. But nyet – this is a Russian film, remember? There’s plenty of good stuff for the sequels. Quentin Tarrantino calls this “an epic of extraordinary power.” The Moscow subway doesn’t exactly look like the tourist showcase it once was; doesn’t look that different from the Manhattan subway now. The transfer to DVD seems well done since a major part of the film is very dark scenes, and they all have quite a bit of detail. The re-recording of the English soundtrack is well done; it is only seeing a few of the signs that makes one realize this is a Russian film.
– John Sunier