It is a criminal failing that the film went nowhere as Nightwatch proves spectacularly good. Ole Bornedal directs superbly the film twists and turns around and keeps one on edge with remarkably well sustained tension. Nightwatch is one of the few films of recent that one can say they have sat through not knowing where the film is going from one moment to the next. The revelation of the killers identity is a startlingly good surprise. Ole Bornedal demonstrates a mastery in the Hitchcockian sense of being able to make an audience feel unsettled. Ewan McGregors first night on the job where everything starts going wrong his sense of isolation as the lights are turned out, having to cross the lab of cadavers to reach the switch, the lift not going is a masterful evocation of eerie discomfort. The scene prior to that with Lonny Chapman giving a wonderfully off-whack performance as the retiring nightwatchman and his unsettling insistence to all of Ewan McGregors What if? questions Dont worry about that itll never happen is an equal treasure of queasy unease. Everything ties together with scintillating logical precision. Tiny pieces the seemingly random game Josh Brolin plays with hooker Alix Koromzay about her weirdest client, the name change games are tossed out as seemingly incidental irrelevant details that then rebound to haunt us at the most unexpected opportunities. Ole Bornedal has Steven Soderbergh director of films like Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), Out of Sight (1998), Erin Brockovich (2000), Oceans Eleven (2001), the remake of Solaris (2002) and Contagion (2011) co-writing with him and the film resonates with hauntingly sombre dialogue.
The American remake has cleaned up the Danish original somewhat out has gone the blowjob in the restaurant, the sex in the morgue scene and the scene where the equivalent of the Josh Brolin character throws up in the font in a church during communion. The original certainly has a nastier, more scabrous edge. Elsewhere, Ole Bornedal is surprisingly faithful to the original with many scenes having been replicated sometimes shot-for-shot. The presence of Steven Soderbergh as writer is also effective, with the killers motivation for instance having been strengthened into a haunting soliloquy.
There are good performances. Nick Nolte has one of the most memorable parts he has had in some time. Josh Brolin also gives a charismatic performance full of danger and a haunted sense of a hedonist who has grown bored with life and can no longer feel.
Elsewhere Ole Bornedal has directed the tv-made horror film Deep Water (1999); the critically divided period drama I Am Dina (2002); The Substitute (2007) about an alien schoolteacher; the identity mix-up thriller Just Another Love Story (2007); the black comedy Small Time Killers (2017); and a dull venture to the US mainstream with The Possession (2012), although he did return to form with the savage Backwoods Brutality film Deliver Us From Evil (2009).