(director/writer: Alex Gibney; cinematographers: Antonio Rossi/Brett Wiley; editor: Andy Grieve; cast: Richard Clarke, Michael Hayden, Eric Chien, Gary Brown, David Sanger, Emad Kiyaei, Ralph Langner, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Sean Paul McGurk, Yossi Melman, Liam O’Murchu, Gary Samore, David Sanger, Sergey Ulasen, Yuval Steinitz; music: Will Bates; Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marc Shmuger/Alex Gibney; Magnolia; 2016)
“Provocative and unsettling documentary thriller on cyberwar.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”/”Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine”) directs this provocative and unsettling documentary thriller on cyberwar, that for all intensive purposes turns into an apology for President Obama’s controversial Iran Nuclear Treaty. Gibney tells us the supposed true version about Stuznet (which the American spies called “Operation Olympic Games”), the self-replicating computer malware worm launched in September 2010 secretly by Israel and the U.S. to destroy the Iranian Natanz nuclear plant. Because of a too aggressive launch later on by Israel, not approved by its U.S. partner, the worm, according to Gibney, spread around the world and even to America and exposed the attackers of Natanz.
It’s pointed out that no one in the American government (or any government in the world) will comment on the covert classified program. The world only learned about the cyber attack from the Snowden leak.
The documentary uses exhaustive computer-animated figures to illustrate its points and carefully- worded talking heads to explain both the technical and political repercussions this hostile launch by Israel’s Mossad and the U.S.’ NSA and the CIA has on today’s world. Its gimmicky gambit, something that turned me off, was for an actress posing as an NSA insider to be viewed in animation while telling us about what’s really going down with covert operation that no one else with such knowledge would dare talk about.
Though filled with valuable information, this film lacks style or aesthetics or objectivity. It serves more like a one-sided update briefing on a story that the media hasn’t fully handled. By the end Gibney shows us his agenda was to have President Obama’s back for his controversial and flawed executive order of signing the Iranian Nuclear Treaty, that was signed by several countries even though it was apparently a threat to Israel’s future existence. The U.S. got little in return by not pressuring the economically troubled hate mongering radical Islamic country for a better deal.
The contention of Gibney is that cyberwar will be with us from now on and we should be wary that other countries (including Iran) now have the capability to do to us the same destruction we could to them.
There’s no room in this doc to offer counter arguments to Gibney’s blame the Israelis for the cyber mess or to argue about the value to the world of the Iran Nuclear Treaty when no counter-arguments are presented. The world’s leading terrorist country, Iran, already got its billions from the treaty and is free to spend it on weapons or terrorism. Gibney’s questionable history lesson leaves us with the emboldened message that the concerned U.S. president is seemingly more concerned with his legacy than holding out for a better deal. Yet the documentary, even if suffocating in its interpretations, is still useful because it contains important information that was little known before.
REVIEWED ON 11/18/2016 GRADE: B