Very similar to ‘Elephant’ in the manner of shooting the movie – in this case with the help of handheld cameras, Zero day is an eerie take on the Columbine High school massacre. The resemblance is made closer by the fact that the two gunmen even look similar to the original student-gunmen – Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris
When you read about the manner in which Dylan and Eric planned the attack – making video documentaries about their firearms, practicing shooting, making a farewell video etc, you find that this movie is faithful in its reproduction of the events. And it can be frightening in its detailing and in the complete dispassion of the two boys towards their actions.
Of course, movies made on this tragedy try to understand what the ‘reasons’ might have been, the reasons which compel two otherwise ‘fortunate’ students to undertake a cold-blooded massacre. Various reasons have been thrown up – from bully culture and social alienation to violent video games and music.
Where this movie stands out is clear portrayal of ‘no reason’. Andre and Cal (the Eric and Dylan of this movie) point out quite clearly that they just have to do it – to wake people up and to make a point against society, a society that they hate, a society that they would force to take notice of them.
A hate, that you realize, which has gone so deep that it has ceased to factor as a reason. All that is left is a blind lashing out at the world around them – a world they find to be unsuitable for them and which they have the ability to blow up – with easily available firearms.
The videos capture this dichotomous world that Andre and Cal live in. Part of apparently happy family which take them out on picnics and give them gifts on birthdays and enough freedom to do what they want. Yet, right under everyone’s noses seethes this anger which after its explosion seems almost inexplicable.
Zero day does not do a psychological study of the possible causes but only mention them vaguely in passing. What it does do is show the outward signs – the double lives, the casualness about which Cal and Andre talk about deaths (including their own), the megalomaniac craving of their taking part in an earth shattering event, the rationalizations.
What you, the viewer is left with at the end is a sense of the utter alienation of the two, who despite all the dangers they represent, seem lost and vulnerable. You dont get the reason why (but then you are not supposed to) but you do understand why Manson, in his interview to Michael Moore (in ‘Bowling for Columbine’) said, when asked what he would ask the two gunmen, replied “"I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, which is what no one did."
This is a movie that makes you think and leaves you with no answer but only with a sense of how lives are wasted simply because we choose not to look or wake up in time. Cal and Andre seem to tell us just that by their actions.