Optimal combination of action/horror/fantasy!

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian film industry gradually recovered and in 2004 a modern Russian action film was born with Timur Bekmambetov’s The Night Watch. Since then, a number of high quality genre productions have been made, which have also left their mark outside Russia. We’ll probably see more of them in the future, but in this article we’ll dive into the crazy world of the Night Watch and its successor, the Day Watch.

Night and Day Watch is based on the novels of Sergei Lukyanenko, and the principle is quite simple. The world is populated by beings with supernatural powers (the Others) who live among humans in unknown places.  The two rival factions (Light and Dark) coexist, bound by a fragile truce, and have agents controlling their respective activities. Anton is a psychic on the light side of the Night’s Watch. It reveals a prophecy about a powerful friend who has yet to be found, and whose loyalty to one side or the other could change the balance of power forever.

The story may not be particularly impressive and gives the impression of having stolen much from the epic Scientology-FI and Fantasia sagas that preceded it. But the film is far from an imitator, forged from genre clichés. Instead, we are treated to a complex and engaging plot, interesting characters and a fascinating setting. There is humor, tragedy, cruelty and kindness, sometimes all at once.

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Night Watch (2004)

The first ten minutes of Nightwatch give us a good idea of what to expect. Anton asks a witch to cast a love spell on his ex-girlfriend. The visit does not go as planned, the apartment is attacked by light agents (one of whom is capable of turning into a tiger) to bring down the witch and her terrifying spider puppet. From that point on, we are immersed in the hostile environment of modern winter Moscow, where wizards, vampires and demons lurk around every corner.

The story is told through the eyes of many different characters, both dark and bright, and we follow their struggles to cope with the circumstances they find themselves in. And the so-called fatalistic attitude of the Russians towards the difficulties and tragedies of life can be found throughout the film. The plot is engaging, the story is told with good timing, and almost all the characters are curiously likable. The large ensemble is led by Russian star actor Konstantin Khabensky in the role of Anton, and everyone delivers a sincere and believable performance.

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Summertime (2006)

When Night Watch became a commercial success, Bekmambetov was given the opportunity to direct the continuation of Day Watch in 2006. At the end of the first film, there were many intriguing threads that could be picked up again in the sequel. The truce between light and darkness threatens to break, and as things take a turn for the worse for almost everyone involved, Anton sets out to find the legendary Chalk of Destiny, a magical artifact that allows its owner to rewrite the past. The Night Watch laid the groundwork for the set and characters. This has allowed Daywatch to increase the density of the plots, resulting in exciting escapades.

Bekmambetov’s direction is perfect, and he orders his films so that they are never messy, despite all the seemingly chaotic stuff. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he also created a unique visual style for the film. Much of the action looks like a cross between a surreal dream and an acid trip, even in the action scenes. Filmed from all sorts of odd angles and masterfully edited, it’s clear that an incredible amount of energy and creativity went into the production.  And unlike many Hollywood films of the era, the CGI effects fit the set perfectly, being as squeaky-clean and crazy as everything else.

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But how far are they?

The action scenes are mostly short and intense, and there are a lot of them. The supernatural creatures that encounter each other in an urban setting cause a lot of chaos, such as B. a car climbing a skyscraper, magically charged elevators going over roofs, and the leader of darkness, Zavulon, using the electric cables of trains as whips to demolish a row of parked cars. And the grand finale of Daywatch is just awesome.

Today’s genre films are still great sometimes. One way to do this is to remix familiar stylistic elements to create something totally new. The Night Watch and Day Watch do a great job here, creating the perfect combination of action/horror/fantasy. These days it’s rare to find a movie that’s visually stunning, with plenty of action, a gripping plot and great characters. The night watchman and the day watchman have everything.

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