20161116: Documentary Review--Zero Days

Name: Zero Days (2016)
IMDb: link to Zero Days page

Genres: Documentary   Country of origin: USA.

Principal Speakers:
David Sanger wrote a full-fledged article on Stuxnet for the NYT, and the book, Confront and Conceal (2012).
Eric Chien and Liam O'Murchu at Symantec discuss finding the Stuxnet infection, deciding to investigate it thoroughly, then unpeeling many layers.
General Michael Hayden was the director of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) from May 2006 to February 2009, and director of NSA (National Security Agency) from March 1999 to April 2005.  The general could only say so much, but what he did say was insightful.
Colonel Gary Brown is the staff judge advocate for US Cyber Command, Fort Meade.
Emad Kiyaei is the Executive Director or the American Iranian Counsel.
Gary Samore is the Executive Director for Research of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Eugene Kaspersky is a Russian cybersecurity expert and the CEO of Kaspersky Lab.
Ralph Langner is the director of Langner Communications, an independent cybersecurity consulting firm that he founded in 1988.

Directed by: Alex Gibney.  Written by: Alex Gibney.
One of way too many code graphics
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
The Middle East, Europe, Israel, and the USA have a long history together: disagreements, wars, negotiations.

Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear program out of existence.  In more current times, Israel's bombing Iran's nuclear program out of existence seems infeasible.

Delineation of conflicts:
The USA, UK, and Israel hatch a secret program for ending Iran's nuclear program, or at least slowing it considerably.  The film details how this secret program was brought to light through journalistic inquiry, geopolitical competition, and investigation.

Israel and the USA have a serious disagreement about how to use Stuxnet, or Olympic Games, its internal name.  Because of this, the effort does not stay secret, and the mission fails.

What to do in light of this is open to a lot of discussion, especially after it becomes partially public.

Resolution: All the issues are ongoing.  Iran survived Stuxnet, and its nuclear program is doing better than ever.  Our Cyber Command arm of NSA is little known but well funded.  Iran's cyber warfare program is also well-funded and quite energized.  Other nations have joined the race to cyber warfare leadership; for instance, North Korea and mainland China.

One line summary: Stuxnet: origins, consequences


Cinematography: 7/10 The filming of the interviews with experts were professionally done.

The computer graphics were overly repetitive.  For instance, the 3-D code representations were interesting to look at but were only of use three times: showing the expiration date for Stuxnet in the code, showing the PLC model number in the code, and illustrating the Israeli overwrite that fouled up so many things.  However, the code animations were shown a couple of dozen times; most of these showed no purpose other than to move away from talking heads.

The spread of virus maps were shown again and again and again.  The only times they meant much was when the isolation of the target to Iran was shown, and when the Iranian revenge instances hit America.

Sound: 7/10 I could hear the dialog.  The music used tended to be ominous to the point of seeming manipulative.

Acting: z/10 Not applicable here.

Screenplay: 10/10 Nicely assembled.  The solving of the original mystery was nicely done, and the analysis of the consequences of Israeli overwrites was well-presented.  The exposition of the future of cyber warfare was the scariest of them all.  The block of interview time devoted to Homeland Security's wasted efforts was so discouraging.  So many person-hours were lost due to secrecy (right hand does not know what the left hand is doing), along with the taxpayer dollars wasted.

Final Rating: 8/10