Alex Gibney sits comfortably beside the likes of Asif Kapadia and Joshua Oppenheimer as one of the best documentarians working today. After the likes of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, the Oscar winning Taxi to the Dark Side, and, more recently, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Gibney returns with Zero Days to continue his tradition of making important documentaries about terrifying truths.
In Zero Days Gibney brings to light the diplomatically unsanctioned, utterly unmentionable, and potentially deadly reality of cyber-warfare. It’s interesting that that’s where the film takes us as it’s some distance from where we begin: what opens as an investigation into the truth behind the Stuxnet computer virus – a virus intended to disrupt Iran’s nuclear programme – cleverly changes course to expose the legacy of paranoia that followed 9/11 and the looming threat of cyber attacks with the capacity to destabilise the infrastructures that people depend on to live.
The final-act reveal of a key source might bother some viewers, but in fact serves to underline the devastating evidence that the things we don’t talk about might one day kill us. The film builds cleverly to this point so that when it delivers its final message it hits harder as this is a threat most viewers had never imagined. The battlefields might not seem as threatening on the surface as those of previous conflicts, but this new type of warfare, unique to the 21st century, is fought anonymously, and without fear of accountability.
Zero Days is a little long, perhaps, but it’s a potent reminder of the unseen threats that face the world today. You’ll need a stiff drink after, but that shouldn’t discourage you from seeking out this sobering, powerful, and absolutely vital film. Gibney remains the United States’ most important documentarian.
DIRECTOR: Alex Gibney
WRITER: Alex Gibney
SYNOPSIS: After an American-Israeli cyberweapon goes out of control, the world wakes up to the reality of cyberwarfare.
Zero Days was reviewed as part of One Room With A View’s coverage of the 66th Berlinale Film Festival, which runs 11-21 February 2016.