Day ZeroIntro

How would you react if you were drafted today?

The Story

Taking place in the near future where the military draft has been re-instated, three friends are drafted and have 30 days to evaluate their lives, patriotism and priorities before reporting for duty. The friends include a successful lawyer named George Rifkin (Chris Klein), a cab driver named James Dixon (Jon Bernthal) and an insecure writer named Aaron Feller (Elijah Wood).

Three friends and three different reactions. Rifkin looks for a loophole so that he doesn’t have to leave his wife (Ginnifer Goodwin) and new partnership in his law firm, Dixon is ready to serve until he meets the woman of his dreams (Elisabeth Moss) and then he’s not so sure and Feller gets writer’s block and decides to accomplish 10 things before he is forced to serve.

Over the course of 30 days though, the three men will have their lives shaped in entirely new ways.

Good and the Bad

This film has so many strengths that it’s hard to even know where to begin. I can’t say enough good things about the cast of this film though. From start to finish; Wood, Klein and Bernthal put in absolutely stellar performances. Almost every reaction and outburst from each of the characters that these three played felt genuine and real.

Every character had their pivotal scenes that pulled you in. Wood’s character, Feller, was one of the more interesting characters. It was really fascinating to watch Feller go through that list and attempt to accomplish everything that he wanted to do. With so many odd things on the list such as sleep with a prostitute and get a tattoo, you could see his mental state deteriorate with every minute that passes making him the easy sympathetic hero.

Chris Klein easily had the hardest role of the three leads. Rifkin is the hot shot lawyer with the most to lose in this film and so while the audience never really sees him lose it completely, to watch the extreme nature of his reactions such as in the kitchen or in the gay bar was absolutely amazing and spell binding. The raw emotion that came through the screen was intense.

Perhaps the weakest of the three characters however would be the role played by Jon Bernthal who actually wants to go serve in the military. To me this character just felt incomplete and wasn’t nearly as developed as the others. While there is plenty of his history revealed throughout the film, it’s never quite enough to satisfy my curiosity about him and answer all of my questions.

Those flaws were unfortunately magnified later as well when Dixon meets his love interest and realizes that he has something to lose after all. The romance between these two characters really just felt too forced and the progression of their relationship just felt a little rushed to me. I really would’ve liked to have seen their relationship developed a little more in the first act of the film rather than the final act but in the end the relationship did manage to capture me as an audience member.

The only character in the cast that I really found to be a waste was Ally Sheedy as the apathetic therapist that Feller sees. The character was really quite hard to like and provided no comic relief and so while I understand the point of having the character there and the scenes there for Feller, I can’t imagine that cutting them out of the film would’ve made a huge difference.

Unfortunately no film is perfect and this one suffers from its own flaws. Perhaps the most noticeable of these flaws would be the consistently terrible lighting on outdoor scenes. It seemed that this film just could not figure out the technical side of filming outdoors as it seemed every scene ended up being under lit making it very difficult to see exactly what was going on in each scene and what the characters were doing. This became quite a big annoyance as the film progressed though with so much of the film taking place in outdoor locations.

The biggest fault of the film though would be the conclusion of the film. With the first acts really taking the audience on an emotionally exhausting journey, the final act really needed a strong punch to finish it off and sadly it just didn’t quite meet the expectations I had for it. While the ending of the film was good and wrapped up most of the plot points, there were still so many questions I had about the characters as the end credits rolled. There were so many questions I had by the time the film was over but sadly the conclusion provided me with no real answers.

There were some very nice instrumental themes used in the soundtrack that I really enjoyed though. I really liked that the musical director of this film didn’t go with the simple route of just picking a bunch of indie songs that could’ve been put into the film for cheap and instead used some recognizable songs as well as some original instrumentals for some of the more intense scenes. It certainly seems as though more and more films are ignoring such an easily missed aspect of the process and so it was nice to see that this film didn’t.

Extras

None.

Overall

A stunning political piece that isn’t about politics. No matter what your thoughts on the current political climate is or what your feelings on the draft are, this is a film for every one to see. The drama is intense and by the end I was actively thinking about the film and the characters. This is a film that will make you start to think a little bit more about how someone in the real world would really react if they suddenly were told that they had to put everything that they had on hold in order to fight in another country.

Powerful and stunning, this is a highly recommended film.

Final Grade: 92% – A

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