Nightwatch (Nattevagten) is a low budget Danish film from 1994, and it is not to be confused with the 2004 Russian fantasy film of the same name.Written and directed by Ole Bornedal, this thriller stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ( Game of Thrones, Headhunters) as law student Martin who takes a Night Watch man job at a local morgue. Expecting to find the job an easy way of earning cash, whilst being able to study, Martin soon discovers that the job will be much more taxing than he expected, due to the spooky surroundings and things that go bump in the night. To make matters worse, a serial killer is on the loose, and as the body count mounts so does the suspicion that Martin may be behind the killings.
Nightwatch is a captivating thriller that ratchets up the tension from its opening moments, Bornedal knows how to get the maximum thrills from his simple set-up. The camera work is outstanding with Bornedal’s lens creeping through the empty corridors of the hospital, giving the viewer a sense of uneasiness and suspense. Waldau is a charismatic lead and Kim Bodina gives solid support as Jens, Martin’s best friend, who helps to get him in even more trouble by posing as Martin when he visits prostitutes, a pastime that leads the police to Martin’s door.
While the film may not be the most original, the finale especially leading to generic thriller territory, there are enough thrills and jumps to keep the viewer hooked. The film was remade in 1997 with Ewan McGregor in the lead role. Ole Bornedal returned to write and direct the Hollywood version that was neutered by Harvey Weinstein, who wanted a teen slasher film and not a slow burning thriller (which this original is).
Denmark is not particularly known for its cinematic exploits and it’s a shame because even though Nightwatch may not be the most original of films, it is a first rate thriller that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.