But to think, in 2012 Alex Gibney released his WikiLeaks film. It’s a good one. The one with the subtitle We Steal Secrets. Woof. That’s probably going to look more like a cruel joke upon rewatching sometime soon. It’s telling the end of a story, quite a satisfying one at that. Now Assange is back fucking everything up, feels like an important part of that story escaped.
Zero Days is his latest film, taking its title from the undiscovered security errors that can allow hackers to exploit computer systems while the security experts have had zero days to respond to the threats. Four of which were exploited by America and Israel in their development of the Stuxnet computer worm, designed to infect and sabotage Iran’s nuclear processing capabilities. It’s a documentary about cyberwarfare, a documentary about beginnings and what they mean.
You see, as I gotta explain for any of this to make sense, Stuxnet (or Olympic Games) stands as arguably the first declaration of cyberwarfare in an age when, despite us becoming increasingly aware of its potential ramifications, we don’t quite fully know what the word means. It’s an exploration of how and why these things are used and what they have the capability of. It’s very nerdy, which it could do with being a little less of, especially round the middle, when it gets a little dragged down in the specifics. The end picks it back up though.
You also get the sense of the film as battleground here, it’s interesting cos Alex Gibney has experience in having conflicting narratives battle their way out over his films, just check Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Here we ain’t got narrative, but two global powers, the USA and Iran swingin their digital dicks in the camera. Emad Kiyaei of the American Iranian Council and the interviewed informant from the United States Cyber Command are, like, two of these incredibly bizarre machismo presences in the middle of everyone else. Like the worst parts of masculine posturing, you get the sense that they know what they’re doing to the film. Brilliantly, the film kinda know what they’re doing too, just look at how they choose to film these cats.
That these people are not the ones with their finger on the button, but their fingers on the keys, becomes something to get more worried about as the running time continues. Zero Days don’t just mean what I said it did earlier. It’s also the possible amount of time between a successful cyber-attack and the potential victim getting fucked. If anything the film functions as an argument to take the discourse away from the people we’ve been watching. It argues it strong, because the soldiers, the politicians, the white men in all their shiny suits, seem incapable of changing anything. More than that, they chuckle at their impotence. I hope we don’t look back at this one in four years and see that once again we ignored a credible threat. Heck, with the world how it is now I couldn’t imagine a crueller joke.