Zero Days – Review (*** 1/2)

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Alex Gibney’s (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief) latest documentary may not sit among his very best filmmaking efforts to date, but it’s a fascinating, deeply entertaining look at the world of technological espionage and the untapped dangers it presents.

Gibney examines the creation of the infamous Stuxnet computer virus, an enormously sophisticated worm which emerged in 2010 with the intent of sabotaging the Iranian nuclear program. Even when news of the virus went out in the open, no state agreed to officially accept responsibility for it, causing Gibney to mount his own investigation.

This probing doc ultimately doesn’t reveal a ton of new information that those acquainted with the story won’t already know, but considering the oddly low-flying nature of the real-world James Bond tale, you’ll be forgiven for missing it the first time around. To that end, the film does a great job mining suspense for those ignorant to the truth, fashioned in the form of a tense tech thriller, including cutaways to a digitally obscured NSA source who provides many of the doc’s juiciest morsels.

Most of us who use computers will have encountered malware at one point or another, and so it’s fascinating to see the elaborate extent to which they can be programmed, with the Stuxnet discussion eventually leaping to a larger-scale conversation about the potential for countries to cripple their enemies’ infrastructure without any defined rules of engagement.

Gibney and his subjects argue well that tech warfare needs some form of structure put in place, in much the same way that nuclear weapons are rigidly governed, but of course, the murky nature of the Internet makes this a far more nebulous and taxing task. Unsurprisingly, there’s not much offered here in the way of practical solutions, but a palpable – and largely ignored – fear that the worst is very much yet to come.

Zero Days presents a deeply compelling and sometimes terrifying look at the staggering potential of modern technology, with a tantalising stinger that leaves plenty to think about once the credits roll.

*** 1/2

Zero Days is available now on VOD and in UK cinemas January 6th

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