Day Watch Review
Chaos can be a very entertaining place. Some of the best films I have ever watched have been elaborate, sprawling puzzles to understand and to be challenged by. Instinctively, I have always liked films which are cussed, difficult or badly behaved - if movies are like people then I am far more likely to admire the Tourette's sufferer than the bank manager. I can really enjoy the pleasure of getting in tune with a difficult story or unlocking a very personal attempt at expression, but after I have connected with the film I have to find it meant something or that it entertained me.
I say this to excuse myself for having to admit that Day Watch is possibly the most unintelligible mess of a film that I have ever seen and I have watched many a Jess Franco flick. Normally when I write a review I try to explain the plot of the film with a synopsis, but on this occasion I feel that I am not up to the task and wish to admit defeat before I start. I know that plot, narrative, and simple matters like construction don't always need to be perfect for a film to be enjoyable and that sometimes this is the whole point of the experience, but Day Watch fails totally on all those scores as well as on the question of satisfying characters.
I wanted Day Watch to be a film that impressed me that Russia is now making blockbusters in the way that China and Korea have recently done to compete with Uncle Sam. Or it could have reflected in some small way the world of post communism through allegory - supernatural tales are quite popular in countries where the everyday seems impossible after all. In the end though, it is the bastard second child of the great film-making tradition of the former USSR and a generation that only wants high arousal images regardless of their context so that they can clip it on their mobile phone to impress their attention challenged friends.
Day Watch has plenty of clippable moments and high impact sequences that will please those without staying power. A car will jump onto the side of a building and drive along the outside wall, a medieval knight will jump his horse through castle wall after castle wall, a man will stop and total a bus that looks like it will run him over, and a little lorry will jump through a big lorry. These moments punctuate what I take to be a story of the eternal battle of good and evil where an uneasy truce is at risk of being broken, and these visual delights seem to me the only possible reasons why you may want to sit through this narrative vacuum.
The very end of the film will add insult to injury for those patient enough to look for some kind of key that will make everything they have seen fall into place and those who, like me, have struggled to fight back the thought that all they saw has been meaningless will have their worst fears confirmed. There are a lot of very positive reviews for this film out there on the web which may make you want to think that I am being a bit snobby about a simple piece of entertainment and that's your own affair, but you have been warned.
The film comes on a dual layer disc in an anamorphic ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer shares a lot of the characteristics of the work Fox did on 28 Weeks Later with a high contrast look and an excellent underlying print. Here though, the image does seem to exhibit compression artefacts and even horizontal lines such as in the still below(look at the top of the screenshot). Colours are handled excellently and the high contrast never risks black levels at all, but there is softness is exterior and effects shots which may be intentional to hide the joins of CGI but is noticeable. The two English surround tracks are not matched well to lip-synching but the voices use keep Russian accents and are well performed. The surround speakers and sub-woofer are deployed brilliantly throughout the film and every effort is made to provide 360 degree sound to match the moving camera and capture atmosphere and ambiance. The Russian track seems more successful in capturing the voices and integrating them into the mix but all three tracks are powerful in the action sequences and clear in the dialogue exchanges. It's a pity that Russian DTS wasn't included as well but the movie sounds fine and has good English subtitles if you prefer to keep to the original language.
The special features include a short trailer in Russian with English subs for the film, and more importantly a 27 minute making of featurette. The cast are interviewed and contribute their thoughts on the fantasy of the film and the concept of "The Gloom", and there is some good honesty about how difficult this film is to follow as well as details on the box office success of this movie and it's prequel. The featurette is in Russian with English subtitles. The disc also comes with trailers for Michael Clayton, Breach and The Savages.
If you liked the first film then I guess this will blow you away too. For me Day Watch takes its insecurity about losing the viewer's interest and translates this into a hyperactivity and flurry of clever compositions which add up to very little indeed. In Day Watch, I found a film that was confused, facile and empty.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 00:28:02