Nightwatch (1997)

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Released 6-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 97:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ole Bornedal

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ewan McGregor
Nick Nolte
Patricia Arquette
Josh Brolin
Lauren Graham
Brad Dourif
Alix Koromzay
Erich Anderson
Lonny Chapman
Scott Burkholder
Michael Matthys
Alison Gale
Robert LaSardo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Marco Beltrami
Joachim Holbek

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In 1996, director Ole Bornedal remade his critically acclaimed Danish thriller Nattevagten (1994) for an English speaking audience, using screenwriter Steven Soderbergh to assist with the screenplay. I've never seen Bornedal's 1994 original, however after viewing this film many times on an old pan and scan VHS tape, I found it striking to finally see the film in its full widescreen presentation. Judging by reviews I have read the original is considerably more graphic, in fact many rate it higher than the Hollywood remake.

    Martin Bells (Ewan McGregor) is approaching a transition in his life, currently in his final semester of law school and involved in a serious relationship with his girlfriend Katherine (Patricia Arquette). Struggling to make ends meet, he accepts a night shift job as a security guard so that he can study and earn some money at the same time. The job itself entails regular rounds of the decrepit city morgue and its many darkly bizarre corridors, not a position flooded with applicants I would imagine. The media at this time is dominated by news of a string of murdered prostitutes, and aside from some DNA the police admit to having no definitive leads. Inspector Cray (Nick Nolte) is in charge of the case and comes into contact with Martin regularly at the morgue, offering him tantalising tit-bits of information about the cases to pass the long dark hours. After settling into the new job, Martin inadvertently finds himself a suspect in the killings when he begins a series of schoolboy-like dares with his mate James (Josh Brolin) to relieve their boredom. He knows he is being framed, but convincing those around him of his innocence proves to be a challenge.

    Director Ole Bornedal has a superb eye for style and atmosphere, and the cast he has assembled features many familiar faces, including a surprising appearance by Brad Dourif as the night doctor. Quentin Tarantino's editor of choice, Sally Menke, gives the film a graceful fluidity rarely seen in thrillers such as this. Although it feels somewhat condensed and a little quirky at times, this is an effective little thriller that will keep you guessing till the end.

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Transfer Quality


    This video transfer is certainly not flawless, but as I stated above it is satisfying at least to see a widescreen transfer. Given the overall appearance of this transfer, it's likely that a theatrical print is the source.

    The video transfer is presented in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement.

    The print exhibits a fair amount of detail and sharpness, but could be better. Shadow detail is also present to a moderate degree and appears acceptable, but is not great. Blacks reach a deep, dark grey but go no further. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    Most colours are well rendered and consistent, with no signs of bleeding or oversaturation. Skin tones appear similarly consistent and realistic.

    Artefacts such as film grain and positive and negative specks are evident around reel changes and other specific points in the film, for example the stark, bright surrounds at 11:30 in the white morgue betray many scratches, dirt and grain and for me was the most distracting part of the film. There are certainly no MPEG compression problems to be seen.

    English subtitles for the Hearing Impaired are provided and appear to be very accurate.

    This disc is comprised of a single layer, and as such does not feature a layer transition.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There's only one soundtrack available on this disc, a surprisingly good English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Contrary to the cover slick, there is no Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack present.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. The ADR looping is seamless and realistic. Audio sync is perfect.

    The use of the surround channels surprised me, with a constant buzz of rear activity including eerie echoes and atmospherics. Wind chimes and chirping birds can be clearly heard at 6:30, while at other times the rear channels are used to carry the musical score as well. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray.

    The film's score by Joachim Holbek is dominated by strings and some high pitch shrills, making for a very tight and tense orchestral soundtrack. The film is also peppered with lively grabs of 90s pop music, from bands such as R.E.M, The Chemical Brothers and Beck.

    The subwoofer (or LFE channel) is used sparingly, but effectively to build tension at the appropriate moments.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The main menu page is preceded by a very brief animated intro. The menu pages are all static, silent and 16x9 enhanced.

Cast and Crew Biographies (5)

    There are several pages of text and a short filmography for each of the main stars and the Director.

Theatrical Trailer (2:18)

    This is a typical suspenseful trailer, giving away a little too much of the plot in my opinion. Interestingly though, there are a couple of small pieces of scenes here that don't appear in the film, including a female voiceover. It is presented in an aspect of 1.33:1, but is 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 1 gets an additional French Dolby Surround soundtrack, but nothing else.

    The Region 2 Dutch release includes interviews with cast and crew, sound samples and outtakes.

    The Region 2 German disc includes German Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and a making of featurette.

    The Region 2 UK is even barer than our disc.

    If you're a big fan of this film, either of the German or Dutch Region 2 releases would be nice. Be sure to shop around a bit, though.


    Nightwatch is by no means the greatest thriller ever made, but it certainly has it's moments. The direction is classy and the cast is packed with recognisable faces and solid performances. This is certainly worth checking out if you like a good thriller.

    The video transfer is unfortunately on the average side.

    The audio transfer is surprisingly active.

    The extras are limited to some text and a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
The original Danish version is way better.. -