Zero Days (4 stars)

Zero Days

Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney turns his attention to cyber-warfare with riveting results

Already one of the most prolific and punchy documentarians out there, Alex Gibney returns with Zero Days, an absorbing tale of digital warfare. The Oscar-winning director is no stranger to tech stories – whether he's illuminating Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (The Man in the Machine) or rabble-rouser Julian Assange (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks). Zero Days is perhaps even more specialist, dipping into the world of cyber-weapons.

The film focuses on a computer worm dubbed 'Stuxnet'. In 2010 the pernicious code was secretly installed in Iran's Natanz nuclear plant. Designed to render nuclear cylinders unusable, this self-replicating virus was apparently developed by the US military and intelligence services, in conjunction with Israel's Mossad – in a joint operation known as 'Olympic Games' – with the intention of destabilising Iran's nuclear programme. Not that anyone will admit it – with Gibney frequently stonewalled by prospective interviewees.

While this might sound rather niche to the layman – and even the experts struggle to clarify exactly how Stuxnet works – Gibney's argument is that cyber-warfare is the next form of conflict on the horizon. Chiming with Edward Snowden's attempts to show the extent and dangers of US government mass surveillance, Zero Days is further evidence of how the digital arena has become the new battlefield.

Perhaps because Gibney has difficulty getting military personnel to talk on the record about Stuxnet, he shifts the conversation into more general territory, but it's still an absorbing watch. With his judicious use of music and graphics, the filmmaker has a knack of turning even the driest and most technical of subjects into something akin to a conspiracy thriller. Zero Days may require you to pay close attention when viewing, but you'll be richly rewarded.

Limited release from Fri 6 Jan.

Zero Days

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 58min
  • U
  • Directed by: Alex Gibney
  • UK release: 6 January 2016

Documentary looking at the creation by US and Israeli mililtary intelligences of the Stuxnet worm, which was designed to attack the computers that control Iran's nuclear program but which spread on the internet. Gibney has difficulty getting people to talk on the record but it's still a riveting examination of the future…