Running Time 92 minutes
Directed by Bryan Gunnar Cole
Written by Robert Malkoni
Starring Elijah Wood, Chris Klein and Ginnifer Goodwin
From World War I through Vietnam, 16 million American boys were recruited by the draft to serve their country. Day Zero is a small but interesting movie filled with conjecture about what would happen if the Selective Service was reinstated to fight terrorism. Following three New York buddies with 30 days to report for duty, the movie concludes that the possibilities won’t be pretty. Despite “Dollar Drafts for Draftees,” the country can’t begin to cope with the psychological impact of a crisis this big in a world that has changed into a different planet since the days of F.D.R., Truman, and “I Like Ike.” Feller (Elijah Wood) is a neurotic writer with a second novel nearing completion whose draft notice plunges him into severe writer’s block. Upper-class, privileged preppie Rifkin (Chris Klein), just promoted to junior partner in an distinguished law firm, is so unhinged that his fear takes precedence over the fact that his wife (sensational Ginnifer Goodwin of the HBO series Big Love) has been diagnosed with cancer. Dixon (Jon Bernthal) is a cab driver who takes his hostility out on everyone he meets with violence until he finally meets a girl who changes his life (Elisabeth Moss from TV’s Mad Men). Watching reports of suicide bombings from Ankara to Cairo, they grow more squirrelly daily. Rifkin goes to a gay bar to work out his frustration on homosexuals who are exempt from the draft and gets beaten to a pulp. As time draws near, Feller sinks into an even darker pit, losing himself in prostitutes and drugs, shaving and tattooing his head, and turning from naïve nerd to suicidal freak. On the morning they are supposed to meet at Penn Station for their induction, they’ve learned to share their innermost secrets and bond beyond casual friendship. But only two show up.
It must be said that film editor Bryan Gunnar Cole makes an impressive directorial debut; the script by Robert Malkani is full of honest, realistic pauses the way real people talk; and the acting is first-rate. Still, Day Zero disappoints. For a hot-button issue movie with a lot of potential for character development, it’s slower than Christmas and disappointingly sluggish. The world has already demonstrated a total aversion to anything on film about the Bush war nobody believes in. It’s not likely they’ll rise from slumber long enough to carry a flag for this one.