The setting is New York City. The time is the near future. Fourteen hundred people have been killed in a terrorist attack in Los Angeles, similar to the one in New York on September 11, 2001. The war on terror intensifies, and the U.S. reinstates the draft.
Three friends receive letters ordering them to report for duty in 30 days. Day Zero (opening in limited release on January 18), an independent film released by First Look Studios, offers a tense and fleeting glimpse into the lives of three men forced to face their political beliefs and personal convictions head on.
George Rifkin (Chris Klein) just made partner at his law firm, and his wife has survived cancer. He tries to use his father's political connections to get out of the draft, becoming so desperate that he contemplates cutting off his fingers and feigning homosexuality. Taxi driver James Dixon (Jon Bernthal), the typical nothing-to-lose character, is patriotic and ready to fight for his country. Aaron Feller (Elijah Wood), a writer who suffers a creative block upon receiving his letter and listens to war news on the radio all day, makes a list of 10 things he wants to do before he heads to war, including having sex with a prostitute and skydiving.
As the plot unfolds, Dixon and Rifkin lock horns over whether to serve in the war. Sparring with another guest at Rifkin's dinner party, Dixon shouts at the upper-class peacenik: "You think fighting is wrong because you never had to fight for anything in your life."
By movie's end, street-tough Dixon, fighting in one form or another all his life (served a two-year stint in a juvenile center for beating up bullies harassing Rifkin when they were teens), now has something to lose. After receiving his draft notice, he becomes romantically involved with a sensitive sociology student who doesn't know he's been drafted. He also plays surrogate father to a neighbor child with a drugged-up mother. (Although the friendship with the wise-for-her-age blonde little girl is supposed to be sweet as she spends time in his apartment, it made me a little uncomfortable.)
While Dixon and Rifkin are ready and reluctant to fight, respectively, Feller is somewhere in the middle: afraid to fight and resolved to fight. Physically smaller than the other two, he's at times literally in the middle as they argue back and forth about why they should or shouldn't go to war. Feller's only concern seems to be: "You really think we'll die over there?"