A malware attack of an Iranian nuclear facility opens the Pandora’s Box on cyber warfare in Zero Days. Fearing Iran’s eventual capability of building nuclear weapons, the United States and Israel covertly joined forces to develop a malware program known as Stuxnet, which was programmed to physically destroy part of a Iranian nuclear facility. However, Stuxnet ends up spreading globally and not only is the involvement of the US and Israel found out by Iran, but it sets a very dangerous precedent for cybernetic warfare.
Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief) directs this documentary about the Stuxnet malware attack and how it may affect how warfare is committed in the future. It is notable that most of those interviewed for the film deny to make any specific comments about Stuxnet, with the exceptions being programmer Eric Chien, who breaks down how the malware operated, and an anonymous NSA source portrayed as a CGI woman. The scary part of this story is not the Stuxnet malware itself, but the fact that it sets a precedent for cyber warfare, where countries now have the power to shutdown their enemy’s infrastructure with a push of a button.
Like many of Alex Gibney’s documentaries, Zero Days covers and interesting subject with a somewhat dull presentation. The film is very dependent on talking head interviews, with the odd reconstruction, and there are times when it is hard to figure out whether Gibney wants to present Zero Days as a cybernetic or political thriller. Probably the most hokey element of the film is the heavy use of CGI distortion for the film’s key interview subject, which makes the doc a lot more stylized than it has to be. While the possible future foretold in Zero Days is scary, the presentation of this doc could’ve been better.