Film Review: Zero Days makes you cower

Zero Days

If you’ve ever watched one of those science fiction movies in which technology takes over the world and threatens the safety and wellbeing of all living creatures on the planet, I’m talking total and utter destruction here, you might think that this is just some made up story that could never happen.

Guess what guys, it’s actually happened. The uncertainty may lead you to pulling out your hair follicles in utter panic, as Alex Gibney’s Zero Days presents to us a harrowing picture of the world in which a computer virus can control and destroy the safety of populations of people.

Zero Days is a dramatic piece which speaks in terms how technology, in particular the internet, can be used as a form of warfare between nations in which the borders or rules of war become blurred due to the inconspicuous nature of the internet. Gibney provides audiences with the possibility of a new kind of war which threatens the livelihood and safety of those living in first world countries, those who will most likely to watch this documentary and presents to us this concern, ‘There’s a new kind of war. The fourth dimension of war is the internet.’

Unlike the zeros and ones which make up binary code and forms the basis of all technological communication, the threat presented by Gibney in Zero Days is not so black and white. Perhaps it’s due to the use of email logs which appear across the screen, interviews with experts in the field, online video calls, disguised voice overs, a montage of news footage, and references to the real-world situations which make the threat seem real but you would be forgiven for mistaking Gibney’s documentary for the 1983 film WarGames, in which a computer nearly ignites World War III. It seems child’s play but the possibility of this happening is becoming more and more of a reality.

The StuxNet virus as outlined in Zero Days is a highly intelligent and dense piece of malware purposeful in its attack which involves controlling a piece of hardware called a PLC (programmable logic controller) physical devices in charge of infrastructure that controls critical systems of which society depends on such as transport, finance, and mass production. The biggest control and concern of StuxNet presented in the documentary is its ability to sabotage uranium production facilities in Iran, a highly volatile element both in its structural nature and in the context of the recent wars.

With a focus on America being due to this documentary being predominantly set in America or at the very least intended for American audiences, Zero Days speaks in regards to the context of the American political scene including the war with Iran. It seems as if the American political system is fraught with secrecy and the biggest betrayal felt by audiences is the discovery that the StuxNet virus (also referred to as ‘olympic games’) was created by the Americans themselves in collaboration with Israel.

Due to the lack of rules in handling cyberwar and cybersecurity there is a lack of distinction as to the protocol of how exactly countries with opposing systems are to run things. Hidden under lines of code appear secrets that remain buried without any form of acknowledgement of responsibility by any political party or country.

Gibney remarks in a voiceover, ‘We invent the enemy and it was us’ hitting home that the Americans have created a sort of frankenstein’s monster for the 21st century, opened a pandora’s box, and let havoc wreak encroaching on the safety and security of the world wide web. Throughout the documentary the instability of the geopolitical system is presented with the uncertainty of newly elected political leaders at the control of possibly, the destruction of mankind. In the context of the Zero Days release being paired with the uncertainty of the outcome of the recent American elections, you cannot help but feel vulnerable as you cower in fear of the future.

Zero Days plays again on the 19th June at Dendy Newtown as part of the Sydney Film Festival. For more about SFF and to buy tickets, head to their website:



Review by Addy Fong.