Directed by Alex Gibney
Alex Gibney explores the phenomenon of Stuxnet, a self-replicating computer virus discovered in 2010 by international IT experts. Evidently commissioned by the US and Israeli governments, this malware was designed to specifically sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme. However, the complex computer worm ended up not only infecting its intended target but also spreading uncontrollably.
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★★★★ review by Alistair Ryder on Letterboxd
The problem many people seem to have with documentarian Alex Gibney is that he cranks out so many films in a short timeframe, he has a tendency to rely on expository talking heads to tell the story- which should make his documentaries feel certifiably uncinematic. Here, Gibney is grappling with a subject matter that multiple directors have failed to make cinematic: cyber warfare. From the mid nineties wave of hacking based movies that kicked off with Hackers to Michael Mann's recent flop Blackhat, cinema has always been behind the curve and utterly tone deaf when it comes to portraying cyber espionage onscreen.
By creating tension solely through the rhythmic editing of multiple talking heads talking about potentially dangerous information, Gibney has delivered the first borderline masterful film on hacking, delivering an edge of your seat thrill ride that's even more intense because the information presented actually happened. Gibney's other recurrent problem of packing too much information into short timeframes also wasn't a problem- by initially spelling out how the malicious software came into being in layman's terms, the geopolitical implications of it falling into the wrong hands become far easier to grasp, not to mention more terrifying.
★★★½ review by Bailey T. Steen 💋 on Letterboxd
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Government: scarier than the horror movies.
Alex Gibney’s political documentary Zero Days paints a new modern cold war. A global chess game of comparable egos that have two means of reaching checkmate annihilation: Nuclear Weapons and Cyber Weapons. Both of which are ready to be fired without so much as a congressional vote or word of warning. The only thing holding us back being mutually assured destruction.
It’s a power dynamic you could imagine in Dr. Strangelove, where oligarchs can screw the whole world order and existence before dinner with their capabilities truly left unchecked. Gibney’s film starts with a simple malware called Stuxnet, a virus known for turning off computers around the world; the malware discovered by cyber security analyst, Sergey Ulasen, who unknowingly set up the Pandora’s box of political maneuvers that lead to the Iranian Nuclear Deal; the highlight of the Obama administration that didn’t come easy or safely.
Gibney trudges through the complex chain of command like a spy thriller, detailing the secret cyber attack of the century, Olympic Games, which to this day is heavily redacted by government officials, its existence bleached if not for a few anonymous NSA whistleblowers. He continues to show the extent to which a heated global government can reach, and the moral question of transparency. These government actions themselves being morally confusing and made under tyrannical-like authority, whether the country in question be an Ahmadinejad-lead Iran, a Netanyahu-lead Israel, or the American years under Bush and Obama – all of which are holding their cards to the chest and stuck in political quagmire.
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★★★★ review by Alex Kolpan on Letterboxd
Everything is going to be okay. Everything is going to be totally fine.
★★★★½ review by Daniel Webb on Letterboxd
"We have seen the enemy, and it is us."
It has been described as the Mona Lisa of malware, never before or since has the cyber world seen anything like it - so far, at least. STUXnet was first identified in 2010 after it had spread worldwide, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers. It contained four so-called "zero days", codes that allowed it to spread without any action required.
Cyber security agencies jumped on the attack, trying to figure out who it was targeting and where it came from. Their search led them to perhaps the first major cyber assault of one nation state against another. The players: the United States of America and Iran.
Zero Days is an expertly crafted documentary, a mixture of 2010's Inside Job and Michael Mann's Blackhat. The quality of sources on display is astounding; from directors of the CIA and NSA, and Israeli Military Intelligence, to whistleblowers at the NSA and Mossad, to representatives of Iran and the cyber security community.
The narrative is finely tuned and the message is clear: there are new types of weapons in the world, but unlike with previous types such as nuclear weapons, we cannot begin to create doctrine's or treaties on their usage, because no one wants to or is allowed to talk about them.
The motto in the cyber intelligence world now is everything goes.
★★★★ review by Matt Lavender on Letterboxd
"We're going to heavily disguise our NSA source for this interview"
*Accidentally recreates the music video for Radiohead's House of Cards*
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