wmd. - Online Review

'whilst its intentions may be noble and its choice of delivery method artistically stimulating, in the end the film falters on several levels'

wmd. is an inventive and unique take on the 'found footage' sub-genre made popular by films like The Blair Witch Project and, more recently, Cloverfield. Based around the justification for going to war with Iraq, wmd. presents the 'found' surveillance footage of and by an MI6 desk officer (Simon Lenagan) who began investigating the evidence for Weapons of Mass Destruction just prior to the invasion taking place in 2002.

Start researching into wmd. and you're likely to come across as many obstacles as Alex Morgan (Lenagan) does during the plot of the film. Made on a shoe-string budget to basically advertise the talents of Director David Holroyd, wmd. has pretty much been released backwards, starting with an online digital release and graduating to (very) limited cinema screens in mid-November, a deliberate strategy which Holroyd discussed with Screen Jabber recently. The element of mystique and subversion that this creates is entirely in-keeping with what the film wants to say about the Iraq war and the reasons behind it and it will be interesting to see if Holroyd's film makes the leap up to minor-phenomenon once more people get to see it (perhaps once it premieres on TV, surely an inevitable evolution).

The film uses a fictional character in Alex Morgan, a desk officer at MI6, to tell what Holroyd and many others would claim is a true tale: that the Iraq war was based on incomplete, manipulated and even faked evidence in order to further the political and economic agenda of the United States. As such, the film is a powerful document of what increasingly (especially with the inquiry pending) looks like being the correct version of events and obvious supporters of the theory have been quick to champion the film.

Whilst its intentions may be noble and its choice of delivery method artistically stimulating, in the end the film falters on several levels. Whilst Holroyd has largely mastered the art of directing 'found' footage, inserting stop-motion style CCTV and not quite rightly positioned surveillance cameras, the angles we are treated too are sometimes a little bit too convenient. Bearable though this is, Holroyd's script and the delivery of it sometimes approaches disastrous.

When producing something that is meant to be 'real' it is vital to keep the audience in that reality and too often poor execution and scripting taken directly out of Newsnight serves to kill any sort of atmosphere. One instance towards the end of the film really does look, feel and sound like a television interview, Lenagan asking questions in a way you'd normally expect Paxman to on a weeknight. Similarly, the sections when Morgan is with his wife (Jo-Anne Knowles) also do the film no favours and feel completely forced. Putting aside some stand-out moments this basically means the film brings together over an hour of stoic interviews, lacking tension or emotion which make it, even at only an hour and twenty odd minutes, a difficult watch which feels overlong.

Despite, rather than because of what goes before, Holroyd does manage to cultivate an extremely tense final 10 minutes even though you're aware from the opening moments what is going to happen. Parts of it remain far too convenient for his carefully scripted world where super spies have got surveillance in all the right places but you can't argue that it doesn't work as a suitably open yet rounded end. As a whole the film is a brave effort and fulfils its purpose in promoting Holroyd and documenting and supporting the anti-war agenda, but really its ideas are too often undermined by some poor delivery and sloppy scripting to call it a success.



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