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Day Zero
cast: Elijah Wood, Chris Klein, Jon Bernthal, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Ally Sheedy

director: Bryan Gunnar Cole

93 minutes (R) 2007
widescreen ratio 16:9
First Look DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by James A Stewart
It is the near future and in America the military draft has been re-instated. In Day Zero this is a projected scenario in which three close friends are given 30-days to get their affairs in order and to report for duty. Elijah Wood (Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) heads a competent cast as Feller - a New York writer of deep insecurity. Along with his friends, Dixon (Jon Bernthal) and George (Chris Klein), Feller faces the torment and anguish of what to do when the call comes and with this the film moves steadily through its running time by focusing in on the soul searching that each of the characters must do.

The setting of New York is rather apt given that it was events there that led America into its current conflicts, although some may argue that it was Washington, Texas and/ or Florida, rather than New York where America started down the path to war. Whilst the three main characters could be regarded as friends, their respective positions in the sphere of social stratification and their personalities lead them to react to the news and the wait-time very differently. George, a well-connected lawyer looks to see how he can avoid the draft for example. Feller fears the prospect of physical duress and the labours of war. Meanwhile, Dixon sees it as a patriotic duty, but like most men, a woman begins to change his philosophy - but is it too late?

Writer Robert Malkini (Dot.Kill) certainly challenges many of our assumptions on the draft and his script carries subtle humour and a whole host of introspection, both for viewer and cast alike. However, it is hard to get too sympathetic for any of the characters; save perhaps for Feller, as there always seems to be a distance between them and the harsh reality that would be the draft for post-adolescent America, or anywhere for that matter.

The film leaves you thinking through possible scenarios but most disappointingly provides answers few of them - which is what you want from a near future film centre around the what if question. It is certainly a tried and tested plotline in fiction and Bryan Gunnar Cole's directorship doesn't bring much else to the scenario. It is satisfying, the way a Chinese meal is, in that a couple of hours later you feel unfulfilled and a wee bit cheated.

As much as Day Zero is posing a hypothetical 'what could be' question - it seems it is more a case of 'what could have been' with this offering. Good but not great. Extras are sparse but include a preview and Spanish subtitles.
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