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Genius Products presents

Day Night Day Night (2006)

"I will wait for the red light to turn green."- she (Luisa Williams)

Stars: Luisa Williams
Other Stars: Josh P. Weinstein, Gareth Saxe, Nyambi Nyambi, Tschi-Hun Kim, Frank Dattolo, Annemarie Lawless, Richard Morant
Director: Julia Loktev

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:31m:05s
Release Date: 2007-10-02
Genre: suspense thriller

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+B-B B

 

DVD Review

In Day Night Day Night, writer/director Julia Loktev tells the chilling story of a nameless 19-year-old girl who—for reasons we are not privy to—has decided to become a suicide bomber. Loktev begins with her main character's arrival in New York on a bus, and from there we are inundated with wave after wave of the ordinary (sleeping, eating, bathing) mingled with fragments of her training regimen by a trio of masked men. As the film progresses, we learn little (make that nothing) about any of the characters political ideologies or reasonings, only that the plan is for a backpack full of nails to explode on a crowded New York street.

Luisa Williams makes her acting debut as the lead here—a character known in the credits only as "she"—and at first glance, before she has spoken a word, it appears perhaps she could be a Middle Eastern woman sent on a mission. Or maybe I've just seen too many bad movies, because bits of minimal dialogue seem to indicate otherwise, reinforced more so late in the film. It really would have been a lazy example of stereotypes-in-screenwriting trick to make her a foreigner sent to strike out at the U.S., yet Loktev steers wide of making her film's villains the more familiar target, and as things unfold the implied ethnicity of any of the main characters becomes secondary. It really doesn't take much reading between the lines to give this more of a homegrown terrorism subtext, and that somehow seems infinitely more frightening.

Loktev keeps dialogue to a minimum, with Williams stern features a tilted imbalance to her tiny voice and excessive please-and-thank-you politeness, even as she is undergoing the rather cold and impersonal training. Though we know nothing about her, Williams character is constantly shifting from hard to meek and back again, as if she is trying to project herself as something she's not. Or possibly changing into something she desperately wants to be, though we don't understand any of the whys. It's a kicker of a performance, full of varying levels of intensity and fragility, and Williams easily gives Loktev's film the proper emotional center to carry the mix of the routine and the dramatic.

There's a curious use of sound mixing in place here, as it seems Loktev placed microphones very up close and personal. Whether it be face scrubbing or pizza chewing, ordinary sounds are all greatly amplified, creating a sort of mechanical dissonance that adds a weirdly uncomfortable layer to things like watching her clip her toenails, which is further enhanced by Loktev's use of long, static takes. This repetition and volume create a calculated level of discomfort, that when married with the already minimal dialogue and plot specifics serve to give Day Night Day Night an unusual degree of tension.

Those expecting a violent, terrorism-based action/thriller—not a stretch given the plot basics—may be taken aback by the way Loktev tells her story, as she continually focuses not on the things you would expect, but those that you wouldn't.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer renders Loktev's slightly washed out palette cleanly, and though colors are slightly softened, edges and details are generally well-defined. The print is clean, with no measurable level of debris or artifacts. The absence of any significant bursts of bright hues keeps the mood tense, and only occasionally are a few sequences marred by black levels that seem rather muddy.

Image Transfer Grade: B-
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 stereo, and while the mix is not terribly complex, Loktev's habit of purposely overmiking even the most mundane element (face scrubbing, teeth brushing, doors closing, food chewing, etc) does give things an engagingly odd aural texture. Voice quality—minimal as it is—is always clear and discernible, with no hiss or distortion. Perhaps a more immersive mix, especially during the film's final reel, might have boosted the uncertainty and drama somewhat.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring You Kill Me, Pierrepoint: The Last Hang Man, Sorry, Haters, After The Wedding
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Julia Loktev
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: We're given a set of theatrical trailers (including one for the feature), as well as a commentary from writer/director Julia Loktev. She paints a nice capsule of the based-on-real-events plot origins, discussing what she refers to as "departure points" as the basis for her specific narrative. Loktev's discussion of her intent in certain scenes (such as the secretive backpack fitting) gave me a different perspective to look at things, one that had an undercurrent of dark humor I didn't necessarily pick up during my first viewing. She also speaks of some alternate endings, though it is unfortunate none are included here.

The disc is cut into 14 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B
 

Final Comments

Day Night Day Night is a compelling alternative look at the personal drama of becoming a suicide bomber, as writer/director Julia Loktev keeps specific details to a minimum but still manages to create an unnerving sense of fear throughout. Even with very little formal dialogue, Luisa Williams gives a starkly intense performance that is both sweet and disturbing.

Recommended.

Rich Rosell 2007-10-30