Day Zero [R] 
Overall movie: ***
EJW content: Onscreen about one-third of the time, as are the other two main characters. The least stereotyped and most enigmatic of the three, calling for both subtlety (see above) and a steep character arc.
To start off with the one story-related problem I had with Elijah's character (Aaron Feller): Like Sean Sullivan, he's more naive than his life history should allow. There's only one scene where this really bothers me: Someone who's traveled alone through Asia (and, I think we're meant to assume, other exotic places) doesn't necessarily have to be a fighter (or sexually experienced), but he needs to know how to deal with a dangerous situation without bringing in someone else to do his fighting for him, even if dealing with it means simply getting away - and staying away.
To be fair, we know much less about Aaron's background than we do about those of his two friends, and it's hard to know if there's something there that causes him to have fewer coping skills than he should logically have. (I have a theory, but won't go into it here. Actually, giving Aaron a coherent backstory could make for some interesting fanfic.) As with Sean, I'd love to be able to ask Elijah about his understanding of this character.
The other main characters are given enough individuality to make them interesting, but are still stereotyped enough - and their storylines predictable enough - to make me give the film itself an average rating.
Because it follows three individuals, sometimes together but usually separate, the movie's probably too choppy to have been a wide-release blockbuster. But it wasn't meant to be a wide-release blockbuster, and I think the style fits it very well. The person behind the camera has learned (as so many before him) to use the two halves of Elijah's face to good advantage, as well as the One Profile. Do you think we'll ever get tired of that? ... Nah, me neither.
For anyone not familiar with the premise of the movie, it's set in a "near future" when the U.S. is at war not only in Iraq, but also in Iran and, according to the radio reports we hear, several other countries in that part of the world. Because of the strain on the armed forces, the draft is reinstated, and the three friends who are the main characters all receive letters at the same time telling them to report in 30 days. So we follow their lives for the next month. There are some things about the set-up that seem artificial, beginning with three best friends getting called up at exactly the same time, which seems unlikely in a draft by lottery. The choice of characters that are so different from each other (done, I assume, to give us examples from different parts of society) also seems forced. We're given an explanation of why the other two very unlikely friends are friends, but like some other things in the movie this seems to be thrown in precisely because it does need an explanation, rather than being organic to the story. We never do learn how Aaron became part of the group (unless I missed something).
The other characters (especially the attorney, IMHO) do have some scenes that are very worth watching. But I don't think I'll get much argument if I say that Elijah's does the most changing in the course of the movie - and for anyone who hasn't read much about the movie, a lot of it would be unexpected. Like ESOTSM, I think knowing too much ahead of time took away some of the effect for me.
One thing Day Zero
gives us is assurance that Elijah can still handle "one-take" scenes. In Huck Finn
, the scene was limited to one take because the sun was going down and there wasn't enough money to rent the outdoor setting for another day. In Day Zero
it's because, well, you can have your head shaved on camera only once.
Believe the R rating on this one: for violence, language, nudity, and sex.