Day Watch (Dnevnoy dozor)
Day Watch is the second in the Russian trilogy of films adapted from the fantasy novels about an unsteady truce between the light and dark forces of the world, forces that operate unseen to humankind and constantly battle to keep peace, or to break it, depending on which side you belong.
The first film, Night Watch (Filmstalker review) told the back story and introduced us to the world beyond ours and to some of the key figures in this battle, as well setting up a key battle between the dark and light. Day Watch brings that battle to bear.
To begin with the film felt as though it had lost its way in the trilogy, and to be honest this lasted for quite some time. It felt as though it took time to gather itself and find its way forward, back to the magic that came with Day Watch. At times it toyed with the idea with some visually unique sequences and the odd flourish in the titles, but it never really found the same pace and style till later on in the film.
At times it felt a little confused on screen, and not just in storyline but in terms of what's going on actually on screen. At times it seems too crowded, shots were tighter, with faster cuts, and almost on a smaller scale visually. Whereas in the first film it felt like it was much grander, much wider, with the camera pulled back more to show the action with full effect from start to finish with much less cutting. The feeling of scale was gone for many of the sequences.
The stylish sequences from the first film, Night Watch (Nochnoy dozor) (Filmstalker Review), definitely felt thinner on the ground for most of the film, and definitely more Hollywood in the way their execution and filming style, although some still managed to grab onto that style from the first film.
Perhaps that's just my recollection, but it certainly seemed that way when watching the film today. Could it be said that this is more Hollywood than the previous film?
For a good portion of the beginning of the film there was a much more comedic feel to it, more concentration on some of the key characters and less action. However with that there didn't feel like there was a lot of character progression here.
One of the larger plot threads which involved the body swap seemed to be quite superfluous and almost unnecessary. One moment it was happening and was played to be the only way out, the next, without any real explanation, the other side knew and that was that. I had no understanding of why we had been taken down that dead end.
There are other early scenes that seemed comically absurd, for instance the shower scene which looked as though it was added as an afterthought by some executive who had to be made happy, "let's have a lesbian scene" he probably blurted out at a meeting, and suddenly they're putting it in. In fact that's probably the reason for the whole body swap story.
Finally on the negatives I felt there were a number of confusing moments, and a few plot devices that were made to seem important, actually go unexplained or brushed aside.
All that said though, the style is still there and it comes out later in the film for earnest. There's still that smaller scale, tighter, more cramped feel to the screen, but it does come back.
Overall the story is very good, the characters and the plot threads intertwined well, and their coming together for the final sequences was well crafted. Trimming off some of the unnecessary moments and concentrating on these more important ones could have made the story much stronger, but it still does really well.
I really do like the way the leaders of the light and dark deal with each other, as though they really are friends even in the midst of battle, and despite all the attempts to derail and destroy the other there's still a strong ethic and respect between them. It feels like World War I fighter aces locked in combat against each other day after day. The actors for both lend a lot to their roles too, with the light being played by Vladimir Menshov and the dark by Viktor Verzhbitsky.
The actor who plays Anton, Konstantin Khabensky, the lead in the two films so far, is great here, there's a strong feeling that I've seen him somewhere in film before. He looks and feels like a Hollywood actor already, so his transition in the upcoming Wanted film shouldn't be too hard to make. However I'd be interested to see him in more dramatic roles.
The ending is really quite interesting, I'm curious to see where the last film is going to go with the story, I can't say any more for fear of spoiling the film, but I have an awful premonition about the direction of the third film, a film which is going Hollywood and being made in English. However at the same time I'm finding it hard to see where else it could go, and for more on that you'll have to see the film first!
A mention has to be made of the utterly stunning closing fight sequence with the balls. The scope and effects of those sequences are right up there with the first film. In fact what am I talking about, it's much, much better.
Here though the ending is well made, and the plot threads from the latter half of the story pull together nicely to give a satisfying if somewhat confusing conclusion. What was good is that it didn't go all Hollywood trilogy on us and give us the expected second film with loads of hanging plot lines to be cleared up by the final film.
It certainly isn't the film I expected after enjoying the first so much and being so excited by the style and the scope of the story. However it still is a good film. I just think that some editing and more concentration on the style of the first would have been better.
Oh, and the closing credits start off really well. I enjoyed those few moments and had a little laugh at the end. It's still a very refreshing break from Hollywood and I'm dying to see more and more from the Director Timur Bekmambetov and hopefully some of the actors from the films. First though, get that third film sorted out.