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In his latest documentary, "Zero Days," filmmaker Alex Gibney looks at one of the U.S. intelligence community's most successful and secret operations and how its success may mean trouble for us all.
The secret is StuxNet, a fiendishly designed software virus that mysteriously showed up in 2010, seemingly aimed at the machinery of Iran's fledgling nuclear-fuel production program. Gibney interviews cybersecurity experts who first found the virus and scoured its code for clues to its intent and origins, which is now assumed to be a joint operation of U.S. and Israeli governments though every interview subject who might know the answer clams up when Gibney asks. The most compelling interview turns out to be an amalgamation, quotes from anonymous National Security Administration staffers spoken by an actor (Joanne Tucker) and filtered through snazzy computer animation.
That trick brings some visual panache to the standard talking-head format, enlivening a straight-ahead documentary with a chilling message: StuxNet may have worked to slow down Iran's nuclear ambitions, but it also opened up a Pandora's Box of issues about how cyberwarfare is conducted, issues that can't be debated because of the terrifying secrecy around them.
Opens Friday, July 15, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some strong language; 116 minutes.