Plot: What’s it about?
Martin (Nikolaj Waldau) is on the road to a good life, complete with great friends and a future in the field of law practice. But of course, the road is not as smooth as Martin thinks and the bumps begin when he takes a position at the local hospital’s morgue, as the night watchman. It might seem like a strange career choice, but Martin needs the cash to fund his law school and as such, he accepts the position and tries to make the best of the situation. Martin has a smooth start at his new task, but soon begins to have unusual visions, ones soaked with blood and violence. This is not his usual mental presence by any means, but perhaps the atmosphere at work has altered him in some fashion. As if his visions and then deviant desires weren’t causing him enough stress, it seems a string of brutal murders has unfolded. Someone has been killing local prostitutes in a grisly pattern and for some reason, Martin has become the prime suspect. But has Martin truly been pushed to the brink, or is this just a case of mistaken identity?
I’d heard a lot about this Danish flick around the time of release, but I was unable to see it for myself, until I found a second generation import (i.e. bootleg) tape at a local shop some time later. I was a little concerned, as the hype had built this up more than a little and that can often result in disappointment. But Nightwatch proved to be even better than the reviews claimed, with intense moments and a very eerie atmosphere. As such, I was pleased to learn Anchor Bay had issued the flick on DVD and now, I was able to sit down and revisit Nightwatch. As expected, some of the suspense is gone since I’ve seen the movie before, but most of the tension holds firm, which is impressive. I was able to pick up more on the small things this time too, such as visual patterns and the performances, which seemed to improve the second time around. Nikolaj Waldau is strong in the lead role, while Kim Bodnia, Sofie Graaboel, and Ulf Pilgaard fall in with ample on deck performances. As often happens with successful foreign language films, Nightwatch was remade for American audiences and while director Ole Bornedal handled both editions, the original Danish language version is the better of the two. I recommend this disc to fans of suspense thrillers and even to horror buffs, as it is a great movie and well worth a look. I think a rental is in order for first timers, but fans shouldn’t hesitate to own this release, as Anchor Bay has issued a more than worthwhile treatment.
His role is a small one, but one that is important in the film’s scheme, so I wanted to highlight the performance of Kim Bodnia. I have seen most of Bodnia’s work and he truly impresses me, I would love to see him in more movies soon. Bodnia has a strong presence on screen and when given good material, he can command an audience and keep them glued to the screen. Of course, he isn’t always given that kind of material, but he is in Nightwatch and as a result, he is able to deliver a great turn, though his role is a supporting one. I also think he works best in more substantial parts, but he handles himself well here and adds a lot to the movie’s impact. You can also see Bodnia in such films as Jolly Roger, In China They Eat Dogs, Bulldozer, and Pusher. The cast also includes Nikolaj Waldau (Black Hawk Down, Wildside), Ulf Pilgaard (Violets are Blue, Body Switch), and Sofie Graaboel (Mifune, Pelle the Conqueror).
Video: How does it look?
Nightwatch is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I’ve only seen a cheap VHS edition of this movie, so I was stunned by this presentation, as it offers a clean and very sharp visual treatment. The source print is almost flawless, free from debris & grain most of the time and that is a most welcome improvement. The colors seem in working order also, although a couple scenes look a little faded, though not all that much so. I wasn’t let down with the contrast either and since this is a rather dark movie, that is a vital visual ingredient. I did see some flaws here, but nothing too serious and in the end, this is a terrific overall visual transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
As with all thrillers, Nightwatch offers a lot of audio potential, but not in terms of power, instead subtle, atmospheric presence. The included Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes good use of that potential and that’s good news, as an immersive audio atmosphere can enhance a thriller many times over. The channels all see a lot of use and since the mix is very creative, a more than effective environment is created. Each little creak will have you looking over your shoulder, just like Martin does in the movie, very impressive stuff. The dialogue is presented in the original Danish language and sounds good, even though I don’t speak the dialect. This disc also includes optional English subtitles, if you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer, as well as an audio commentary track with director Ole Bornedal. I am glad this session was included, but Bornedal seems lethargic at times and the track is quite slow. Even so, he offers some good comments here and there, making the track more than worth a listen. I do think another person should have sat in with Bornedal, in order to keep the session alive and on the right track.