Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Zero Day - The Columbine movie has been made.

Calvin Roberts as a cute 'n crazy teen. Posted by Hello

Finally, there's a Columbine movie that gets it right. Zero Day doesn't dodge the issues, like the purposefully unsatisfying Elephant, and it isn't as flat-out stupid as Duck! (You can read my diatribe against that piece of shit here). It makes the most of its low budget (oh, how I'd love to see Hollywood take a whack at it with the cast of The O.C.) and amateur actors to finally tell the story in a way that feels true.

Zero Day's director isn't afraid to take chances: He casts real teens (Calvin Roberts and Andre Keuck) who manage perfectly natural performances. He makes the most of his low budget by pulling the old Blair Witch "video diary" trick, avoiding the major pitfalls of DV recording. But most impressively, he isn't afraid to make Cal and Andre (the characters are named after their respective performers in order to use old home-video footage ... a great device for making the diaries feel more authentic) likeable and crazy.

Elephant was so afraid of suggesting any motive or meaning to the mass murders that the killers in that films were glyphs. Zero Day dismisses all the major postulated motives in favor of the only one that matters: insanity. It also understands that insanity doesn't need to be expressed through mouth-foaming or homoerotic shower scenes (what the hell was that, Van Sant?). The killers joke with their (real life) parents, goof off and then build pipe bombs.

Like Elephant, Zero Day understands that no reason could explain mass murder to sane people searching for answers. Unlike that film, the result isn't an exercise in nihilism. And watching the massacre (shown as security camera footage, another effective choice) is that much more terrifying when you have grown to like the killers.

The movie isn't perfect ... Even at 92 minutes, it feels overlong, a danger of the risky format (I would have cut the prom scene), and while Robertson and Keuck turn in great performances, the same cannot be said for other teens who show up in the film. Still, untill someone gets off their ass and writes the Columbine book that is screaming to be written (are you listening, Dave Cullen?), the movie stands as the best Columbine document yet.

EDIT: Reading on Cullen's site, I realized April 20 marked six years since Columbine.


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