Day Watch is a stunning, well executed action adventure film, with a simple supernatural hook, a well-defined and well-deployed McGuffin and a sense of fun and originality.

Konstantin Khabensky (as well as much of the cast of Night Watch) returns, now mentor to Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina), responsible for her training as part of the Night Watch. As Anton, he is weary, wary, woeful and wooing as he shepherds his apprentice. His task is made more complex by the fact that, while he is only moderately powerful, she is a 'Great Light Other', a supernatural entity capable of terrifying acts.

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Further complicating the situation is the presence of Yegor (Dmitry Martynov), Anton's estranged son, who, though Anton is Light, is a 'Great Dark Other', or will be upon his imminent birthday. With the potential for two Great Others running around Moscow, the two Watches, Night and Day, and the Inquisition are somewhat nervous. While their mission is to prevent a war between Light and Dark, to maintain the uneasy truce, these two make it worse - even vampires and warlocks are subject to the balance of terror. Svetlana and Yegor between them are Mutually Assured Destruction made flesh, and conflict between them would be apocalypse.

In establishing this weighty back-story, Day Watch uses swiftly drawn action sequences with stunning effects and narration from Anton. Exposition that might be off-putting is easily disguised between Svetlana's training and Yegor's naivete. He may be immensely powerful, but he's also only fourteen, and his guardian, Zavulon, has a vested interest in keeping him controlled.

Having established the prospect of an inevitable apocalypse, Day Watch produces a McGuffin, The Chalk of Fate. It has the power to rewrite destiny, but only in specific and certain ways. The Chalk, the limitations of its powers, and the places where its awesome ability may be directed are drawn with verve and panache. Many a genre film has had a McGuffin, but few have introduced it with Tamerlane's nomad horde storming across the endless steppes to lay siege to a labyrinthian castle on the edge of reality.

The action sequences are stunning, the special effects impressive, and while there's quite a bit of product placement many of the references will be lost on audiences who don't watch Russian television. That said, it's got the same sophisticated subtitling as Night Watch, with the same neat tricks - words hang in the air like real things, change in response to character realisation, gyre and twist as the situation evolves. Moscow is well presented, and it's a nice change to see a world city outwith the US, UK, or Japan threatened with destruction. The international cut reviewed has some significant variations from the Russian release in terms of structure, but it hangs together well despite the chops and changes.

There are other clever moments, from the way billboards are integrated into the credit sequences to various cameos from Russian pop-stars and science fiction authors, including Night Watch's author Sergei Lukyanenko.

Day Watch is a well constructed genre film, a sequel which stands alone, a triumph of an international release. It's weakness is that it is a genre film, that it is a sequel, that it is in Russian. All of these dissuade audiences, but they should not. Day Watch is brilliant.

Reviewed on: 24 Aug 2007
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The forces of good and evil battle over a device with the power to save or destroy Moscow.
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Read more Day Watch reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****
Darren Amner ***1/2

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Writer: Timur Bekmambetov, based on the novel by Sergei Lukyanenko.

Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Vladimir Menshov, Galina Tyunina, Viktor Verzhbitsky, Zhanna Friske, Dmitry Martynov

Year: 2006

Runtime: 132 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Russia


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