At times, ZERO DAYS sets a dystopian and anxiety-ridden tone. Accompanied by a panic-inducing soundtrack, the dark subject matter can be overpowering. Though this documentary may be psychologically trying to sit through, ZERO DAYS dredges up necessary issues at the core of a modern day problem most Americans don’t realize has materialized: a cyber war doomsday scenario that could collapse the world’s infrastructure in seconds. It’s real. It’s here. And according to the movie, we’ve already come close to it happening once.
ZERO DAYS is directed by veteran documentarian Alex Gibney. Before tackling this heavy topic, Gibney worked with HBO to take a look into the church of scientology in GOING CLEAR. He also shot FELA for Netflix a film about Fela Kuti, the controversial but undoubtedly talented African musican.
Early on, the story inherits a spy thriller tone, akin any Tom Clancy doomed world scenario. Within this mood we are introduced to “Stuxnet”—a malware worm specifically designed to be used against Iranian centrifuges. Gibney goes on to trace a line through the political geo-economic landscape to show; a line that points out the ways in which some in the tech security community have posited that the creation of this malware program was a joint effort between America and Israel to destabilize Iran’s nuclear program.
Wonderful uses of glitch art used throughout the film, highlighted at the beginning by the opening credits, create an immersive experience—one that feels like actually descending into one of the malware-ridden computers themselves. Editors Andy Grieve and Hannah Vanderlan complement Gibney’s essential message by bringing to the big screen new digital aesthetics.
Powerful interviews, great editing, and to top it off an excellent ending, Gibney is at his best. The film does a great job of instilling the right amount of immediacy without leaving the audience in a state of panic and powerlessness at the end. It clearly lays out a path of action, i.e. the discussion about cyber warfare and creating global restrictions on government use of it in the modern world. Embrace the discussion ZERO DAYS looks to inseminate into culture.