8 May 2007 | magicdancer
A Most Enjoyable Thought-Provoking Film with First-Rate Ensemble Acting
I saw "Day Zero" twice during its run at the Tribeca Film Festival and would have welcomed a third viewing. From seeing the trailer at the film's website (http://www.dayzerothemovie.com/) I knew the story dealt with future reinstatement of the military draft in the United States and how three friends spent the thirty days between receiving draft notices and reporting for duty. I was immediately drawn into the film and the lives of these men; I cared about them and what they were going through. The film is character driven and director Bryan Gunnar Cole succeeds brilliantly in getting inspired performances from the talented, but mostly not well-known (to me, at least) cast.
Chris Klein very convincingly plays George, an upwardly mobile New Yorker, who at a young age, has recently made partner in a prestigious law firm. He does not want to jeopardize his career, does not support the war still playing out in the Mideast and diligently searches for ways to dodge the draft. He considers everything from seeking the help of his influential father to self-mutilation an edge-of your-seat scene. Nor does he want to leave his wife (Ginnifer Goodwin) who has just been declared cancer-free after a five-year battle.
Jon Bernthal is excellent as Dixon, a street-smart cab driver who willingly defends his friends with his fists, but is the solid, caring anchor in the life of a young girl in his building who prefers spending time with him to dealing with her drug addled mother. Sofia Vassilieva is marvelous as the young Mara and I fully expect to see more great work from her in the future. Dixon is eager to serve, which causes friction with his friends' opposing beliefs, but falling in love (Elizabeth Moss) suddenly complicates his life.
The very talented Elijah Wood (and best-known cast member) once again displays the amazing versatility we've seen in all his post-"Lord of the Rings" films. His character, Aaron, is the most interesting and complex. He's a young writer with a successful book who is working against a deadline on his second book. He's clueless, out of shape, bewildered, estranged from his family and in his seventh year of sessions with an apathetic, inept psychiatrist (well done by Ally Sheedy.) He's also certain his draft notice is a death sentence. As Aaron attempts to toughen up and complete his 10-item "to do" list before going off to war, Wood provides some wonderful moments of comedy, which appear in all the right places.
"Day Zero" is ensemble acting at its best and cinematographer Matthew Clark's extensive use of a hand-held camera is perfect for creating a you-are-there empathy with the characters. This is a terrific film that pulls you in and makes you wonder, "What would I do?" It is not a political film; it's a perfectly cast people film and you will love these people. I hope it gets a distributor and the wide release it deserves.