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Day Zero (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Day Zero

Day Zero

DAY ZERO (2008)

Starring Elijah Wood, Chris Klein, Jon Bernthal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Elisabeth Moss, Ally Sheedy, Sofia Vassilieva, Zoe Lister Jones, Charlene Biton, Michelle DiBenedetti and Clark Middleton.

Screenplay by Robert Malkani.

Directed by Bryan Gunnar Cole.

Distributed by First Look Pictures.  93 minutes.  Rated R.

Despite the fact that the idea carries with it some potentially serious political baggage, it is not that much of a stretch to imagine that if George W. Bush continues his policy of war as a diplomatic strategy then eventually it may be necessary to resurrect the draft in the United States.

Day Zero takes that consideration and pushes it a step farther.  Forget what if – what will happen when this comes to pass?

It makes its points by focusing on three friends – played by Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings), Chris Klein (American Pie) and Jon Bernthal (best known for last season’s short-lived-but-heavily-hyped sitcom The Class).

When, due to the continuing Middle East conflict (the film doesn’t really specify if it is Iraq, Afghanistan, or possibly Iran or some other upcoming skirmish) the draft is reinstated, all three are given thirty days before reporting to duty.  They have this little time to clear up their affairs, say goodbye to their loved ones and come to terms with their fears.

The three have known each other since childhood, but now since grown in different directions – in terms of career, stature and responsibilities, as well as financial and political differences.  The three buddies have stayed close over the years but none of them is sure why they have – other than a long ago bond.  All are very well aware of their significant disparities.

George (Klein) is riding high as a corporate lawyer, with a beautiful wife, a powerful former-politician father and a high-powered job.  He is rather ambivalent about the war, but tends to be against it.

Aaron (Wood) is the tortured artist of the group who had published a respected book but now is spending most of his time at his psychiatrist’s (Ally Sheedy) complaining about his complete inability to finish a follow-up.  He is horrified by the idea of war and can’t imagine ever going.

Finally there is Dixon, the tough kid who took care of everything for the friends as a child.  Now however, his life is going nowhere.  He lives in the same neighborhood and works as a cabbie.  He feels it is their duty to fight terrorism wherever it appears.

The film plays with the core beliefs of the friends.  The gung-ho war friend meets a sweet neighborhood teacher (Elisabeth Moss of The West Wing) and suddenly realizes that maybe he has something to lose by going to the Middle East.  The lawyer’s wife (Ginnifer Goodwin) has contracted cancer, making his desire not to go to war become an obsession not to leave his wife.  In the meantime, the shy pacifist sort of goes completely off the deep end – throwing himself into a world of sex for sale and danger, until a humiliating confrontation with a pimp turns him into Travis Bickle.

The politics and melodrama of Day Zero is a bit more simplistic than the filmmakers undoubtedly meant them to be.  It sometimes skirts the issues rather than meeting them head on.  Several of the plot points feel a little predictable.  However, it is an intriguing look at a complicated issue.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 10, 2008.

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