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Day Zero
Day Zero
Actors: Elijah Wood, Jon Bernthal, Chris Klein, Ginnifer Goodwin
Director: Bryan Gunnar Cole
Genres: Drama
R     2008     1hr 33min

DAY ZERO stars Elijah Wood, Jon Bernthal, Chris Klein, and Ginnifer Goodwin. DAY ZERO is a timely political and personal story of three young men as the military draft is reinstated. Three best friends, George (Chris Klein...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Elijah Wood, Jon Bernthal, Chris Klein, Ginnifer Goodwin
Director: Bryan Gunnar Cole
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Drama
Studio: First Look Pictures
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 02/26/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 33min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 2
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Day zero approaches
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 03/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What if the draft were reinstated, and the young men of the United States suddenly forced to join the army, fight, and perhaps die -- without any free choice?

Thankfully, that hasn't happened just yet, and hopefully it won't anytime soon. But "Day Zero" takes a hard, sometimes frightening look at three young men who face that very ordeal. Instead of pompous politics or big war stories, it's an intimate, visceral experience that seems more interested in the "ordinary guys" than in the war itself.

In the near future, terrorists have struck again, this time attacking the West Coast -- and in response, the United States has reactivated the draft. All males between eighteen and thirty-five have to sign up for army duty in one month. This includes three friends: street smart cabbie Dixon (Jon Bernthal), wealthy young lawyer George (Chris Klein), and fragile writer Aaron (Elijah Wood).

In the month that follows, all three are struggling -- George wants to stay with his newly cancer-free wife (Ginnifer Goodwin) rather than fight in a war he despises, and tries to arrange an excuse to stay behind. Dixon's new girlfriend leaves him wondering what he'll lose if he leaves. And Aaron is just terrified. He makes a "ten things to do in the next month" list, but his fragile psyche starts to crumble under his fear of army life and death.

As Day Zero approaches, all three men must find the pressure building to new heights, and must decide where their choices -- and futures -- lie.

"Day Zero" is not a cheerful movie -- despite a lack of boot camps, battlefields and pompous political preaching, this movie is pretty dark fare. It's more interested in the hearts of drafted young men, and how they react -- how they react to the news, and how their potential loss affects their loved ones. And of course, the question of whether having a loved one gives you something to stay for.

And first-time director Bryan Gunnar Cole does a pretty serviceable job. He slowly builds the tensions to a snapping point -- there are lots of raw emotional outbursts, and the entire movie has a cloud of dark inevitability hanging over it like a nasty ghost. Thee are a few flaws -- some patches of dud dialogue, and the embarrassing gay-bar screamfest -- are simply embarrassing to watch.

Despite the dark tone, Cole does manage to weave in some comic moments, mostly from Aaron, his Bowflex, and his hilariously insensitive shrink. But these humorous moments have a tragic twist, even as they make the darker moments go down more easily.

Klein gives the weakest performance of the bunch, especially since George is such a blatantly unsympathetic character -- not to mention that Klein's performance is wooden, lackluster, and rather boring. While Dixon's background is rather cliched, Bernthal does a more solid job as a hothead who actually gets something to love -- and lose -- and has to grow up a bit.

Goodwin gives a solid, intense performance as a woman who has just regained her future, and she easily overshadows Klein. And Wood has the most challenging role: a man too fragile and sensitive to cope with his own fears, let alone the army. His downward spiral might have seemed silly in another actor's hands, but here it's just painfully stunning and pitiable. Few actors have the skill to pull off that breakdown.

It's worth noting that despite its flaws, "Day Zero's" goal is not to change your mind or your war stance, but simply to give you something to think about, and in that, it succeeds. Definitely worth seeing, and worth mulling over once it's over."
Best Elijah Wood Performance to Date
Edward C. Patterson | Allentown, PA | 11/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's 30 days before DAY ZERO, when three friends are to be drafted into the army during the raging war in Iraq. They react to the news and somehow come to terms with reality. On this simple (even thin) premise, Bryan Cole crafts a well balanced 90 minutes, which manages to cloud a specific or biased point-of-view. Sure, there's anti-war clambering and patriotic posturing. There's plenty of flag waving and flag burning, but this film is not about the draft or serving one's country. As a reviewer who has already been drafted to face a war (in Viet-nam) and had to grapple with decisions that would ultimately shape the remainder of my life, I know this film is about "the inner self"--the draft being the catalyst and the reactions mere symptoms to the rumbling of the human spirit or the lack there of.

The three stars carry the film a long way and beyond. Chris Klein as George Rifkin represents the majority view, that the draft is a life interrupter. One never gets the impression that George is a coward. He just wants to continue his law practice, enjoy his family and wife; and ultimately, his anti-draft stance festers from resentment to anger. Jon Bernthal as James Dixon represents the patriotic view, that "it had to happen sooner or later," and everyone should stand up and fight terrorism. He is a violent and disturbed man, short fused and drives a taxi for a living, quite a contrast from George. He imprints his views on his friends without hesitation, but when he meets a girl, his views are somewhat tempered. Elijah Wood, in his best performance on screen to date (yes, even better than Mr. Baggins), plays Aaron Feller, a naïve, fragile man, who has just published his first novel and is working on the second. He is thrown into a panic by the draft notice. He looks for help in all the right places, and doesn't find it. He then looks in all the wrong places, and does. He manages to face his inner demon and takes the appropriate corrective action.

The three friends interact with great chemistry. While Wood carries the film's main theme and presents it with pathos and comedy, the more political and preachy messages come from Klein and Bernthal. Bernthal's raging approach to life is engaging. He is always there for his friends, but not without cost. He chews up the scenery. Klein, on the other hand, gets the more conventional row to hoe, with everything from draft dodger to conscientious objector. He whines and bleats and tears his hair out (figuratively. Wood loses his, literally). Between Bernthal and Klein, we have Macbeth and King Lear, so it is up to Wood to bring the real interest. He crafts his character from thin air, as his scenes are mostly interspersed vignettes that are visually appealing and pathetically comic. In fact, Wood's sense of comedic timing matches the great stars of cinema, like Chaplin. He takes us from entertaining comic relief to riveting drama as Aaron takes a roller coaster ride from naïve to psychosis in 30 days to Day Zero.

This film has only been screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, where I am sure it will win awards and be picked up by a distributor (if not, the film industry is blind). It demonstrates that in the hands of a thinking director, three strong actors can create storms in tea cups. It also provides the viewing audience with Elijah Wood's best of many great performances on celluloid, and for an actor nearing his 40th film, it is a landmark.
Day Zero - Excellent Thought-provoking Film That Deserves A
The Lost Bronte | Earth | 03/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Day Zero


Despite anything you may have read in any this film for yourself. It's worth it.

Day Zero

First off it's beautifully filmed. You would never guess it had such a
low budget. Well thought out shots and camera angles. Excellent use of
close ups of everyone. Their faces tell the story.

It's not entirely about war but about unprepared young men being
blind-sided by being drafted unexpectedly into a war they are unsure
of. Even Jon Bernthal's seemingly gung ho character isn't as sure of
what he wants as he first appears. He has too much heart and love for
other people. He's a genuinely good guy. What will fighting in a real
war and seeing it's horrifying atrocities do to his kind soul? He might
fight and survive but he won't come back the same man. He may have a
load of guilt that he will never be able to shake. Ideals shattered.
Nobility in shreds. His is the most clearly exposed character and has
the most screen time. He's very good. A new DiNero.

Chris Kline also was good and understated but you can see everything he
feels and how torn he his. To leave his cancer survivor wife that he
loves dearly. To abandon his career as a successful lawyer. To fight in
a war he does not believe is right. Or submit to a draft he believes
deprives people of their civil rights and due process of law. A solid
quiet and painful l portrayal.

Then of course Aaron..Elijah. Poor sad outcast Aaron. A person who
cannot even be his own friend. A person self-isolated and despite some
interesting life-experiences (the post grad trip to Malaysia) sadly
naive. He is locked within his own self-destructive psyche. If he
doesn't love and respect himself how can anyone else? Still he has
strong bonds with Bernthal and Kline. They get him. They might tease
him but they understand him and they are his friends and the only ones
who care about him. Elijah is very good. He shows Aaron's pathetic
shock at having his fragile life invaded by that draft notice. He is
completely unprepared for any kind of combat. Why he never considers
getting a psych discharge is surprising. He would have easily gotten
one. I knew a guy almost just like him back during Vietnam who was so
emotionally wrecked that although he braved two weeks of boot camp he
disintegrated so badly the army gladly sent him right home. The army
would have done the same for Aaron, I'm sure! But the poor thing never
sees this. Making us wonder if he truly sees himself clearly at all. He
does have talent as a writer. Something perfectly suited for his loner
psychological make-up. He was NOT a fraud as he thought. He took a folk
tale and enlarged on it for his book. Last time I looked that wasn't a
crime. Authors take such things as inspiration all the time. It was not
fraud. Aaron never sees his strengths. He just loathes himself and then
when it seems Dixon is disgusted with him after that mis-adventure with
the pimp, he really starts to come apart.

The head-shaving is a brilliant dissolving into psychosis scene. His
hair really was buzzed off and he still stayed 100% in character. That
is enormous credit to his professionalism.

When he calls his sister and she just blows him off it is the final
break for him. He can't see that his friends care. That they would help
him if he would let them. He is lost within his own madness. He cannot
see beyond it. His final decision is so sad because he feels he is
vindicating himself and freeing himself. That last smile of his, his
only real smile in the movie, is chilling. And for anyone who has ever
been there and felt anything like that it resonates deeply.

I love how he found this character and made him different from anyone
else he has played. His Depp-titude is becoming more and more apparent.
The little nervous tick of his cheek. The not-quite smiles. His
ineptness around women. ( Best line..."Maybe later." ) His descent into
madness. Elijah has talent in spades.

The supporting cast is all very good too. I love the young blonde
girl,Sofia Vassilieva, who loves Dixon. She just breaks my heart. An
actress to watch, I'm sure we'll see lots more of her. His older
girlfriend,Elisabeth Moss, is good, too. Ginnifer Goodwin is pretty
good but perhaps not quite the best.

All this comes down to why this wonderful, intelligent film got the
cold shoulder. Well of course it's never been PC to even appear
anti-war. But the thing is that's not really what this movie is about.
It's about how war effects different types of people and how they deal
with it. It doesn't tell you what to do it just makes you think what
you MIGHT do in the same situation.

What one thought did I take away primarily? War demolishes lives. Rich, poor, here, there.... it touches everyone to the core and no one remains the same.

It's a good film that deserves a wide audience. I hope very much it picks up on DVD and TV the interest it should have.
Modern day draft stories
Reader | Boca Raton, FL | 12/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Three long time friends from NYC receive draft notices from the US military asking them to serve in Iraq. All three are due to report to duty in 30 days. They get together to discuss their "options" about the situation. One of them who is a taxi driver is convinced that it is their duty to serve without question. Another one is a married attorney and he is hesitant to go. He even asks his well connected father to engage state politicians who can get him off the duty. The third one is a city orphan of sorts. His "absent" family is the indication of his highly dysfunctional internal life. This young man is a writer who cannot work on his novel, who has no girlfriend (and is sexually dyfunctional), who is alianated from his immediate family (he has not talked to them for seven years). His shrink does not even pay him attention during their sessions, let alone give him some constructive advice. This poor guy is a master of loneliness and misdirection. Film unfolds over the period of thirty days where we learn more about characters lives and their internal struggles. By the end of the movie you will be blown away about each character's destiny coming to life, in the open, for all to see. Interesting meditation on how generations of today are perceiving war, military and their own purpose of life and how all of that is different from all other wars we have known and sent young men to.

Elijah Wood gives us a memorable performance in this film. He is vulnerable, comical, serious and sensitive all at once. This is his best performance on the screen to this day."