I think that we all remember where we were when we heard about the Columbine High School shootings. It was an unfortunate chapter in history that was, sadly, doomed to repeat itself. Over the years that followed, Dylan and Eric left a legacy that had a ripple effect and in its wake were countless other loners and outcasts that used Columbine as a blueprint. Perhaps none of them have had the stigma that Columbine had, but that didn't make them any less tragic. One of the other things that came out of that tragic day, was art. Art comes in all forms and one of them is film. There have been several versions of this story brought to the screen, either in part or in whole. The best example was Gus Van Zants 'Elephant'. It was a film that mixed real high school students and non-actors and had them replay the events leading up to and including the day that Dylan and Eric went on their rampage. Granted, it was fictionalized, but it had an amazing punch to the face. I still remember the feelings that came over me during 'Elephant'. There was 'Duck! The Carbine High Massacre'. Not recommended viewing. 'Bowling For Columbine', which allowed Michael Moore to cash in on the blood of the innocent to further his own cause and had little to no real value as a film. It did, however, use the actual footage from the Columbine High security cameras. That brought chills to my spine to watch them. I don't think Mr. Moore used them in his movie for any other reason, but to sell tickets, however. These are just a few examples, but the most recent example I've seen is 'Zero Day'. Once again, this film used unknown and non-actors to portray a version of the Columbine shootings. It was all shot on video, as though the two main characters, Andre and Cal, were doing it themselves to document their build up to "Zero Day". It created a sense of realism that was similar to that of 'Elephant'. Granted, this was not as well done as that film.... but it is head and shoulders above many of the others.
The story follows the Columbine High School shootings fairly closely. It shows two teens, Andre and Cal, as they prepare to exact some kind of revenge on those who treated them poorly all their lives, those who were over privilaged and anyone who got in their way. They firmly believed that what they were doing had a greater purpose to it. What they chronicle is the planning stages of their two man army war on others. How they obtained guns and explosives, how they decided on what day to carry it out and who they were targeting. You can actually see their twisted minds at work. The third and final act of this film walk you through their final execution of their plans, 'Zero Day'.
I can't imagine how terrible it must have been on the students at school that day, let alone the families of the killers and their victims. 'Zero Day' brings it all home and opens up some old wounds that were probably left untouched. On the flip side of that, it serves as a harsh reminder that we all need to pay attention to the signs of troubled teens. To hear what they have to say and to provide support and understanding during one of the most difficult times in a persons life. High School always seems lame in hindsight, but at the time you're living it.... it can be the worst pain and suffering imaginable. I can remember those times like it was yesterday and I could see where it would be very easy to get wrapped up in the idea of taking your frustrations out on those who've harmed you. That doesn't make this behavior right, it just makes it make more sense. 'Zero Day' is a strong attempt to portray a difficult subject with respect and without gratifying the situation. They walked a very fine line here and did it with grace and ease. The film was entertaining, but not in the typical way. I could honestly feel the pressure building and I became more and more uneasy as time went on. When that final sequence of events start, I found that I couldn't take my eyes off the television.... no matter how hard I tried.
This film deserves a secondary viewing. At the time of this review, I'm only giving it a 3 out of 5 star rating. I think that 'Elephant' overshadows this so much that I can't see my way of giving any higher of a rating than 3 out of 5 stars. Perhaps once I've seen this again, I will raise it to 4 out of 5 stars, but until then.... this is where my review will stand. This film is currently OnDemand on Netflix, so add it to your queue soon, before it's a rental only. My final thoughts on this are that if you do buy the ticket to take the ride, be prepared to feel hollow inside again. It's not a plesant film to watch, but I think it's an important one. One that will always remind us that we can never forget, lest history will repeat itself. (BTW: the ending of 'Zero Day' doesn't do it justict, but it doesn't hurt the film either.)
If you like this, check out: 'Elephant' (it is the BEST retelling of the Columbine High School killings.) I can't honestly recommend any other films