Wednesday, 14 October 2009

[246] WMD (2009), Out This Week

I recently had the chance to see a new, small budget, independent British film called WMD, directed by David Holroyd. It is a politically charged thriller, centered around the infamous 'sexed-up' September Dossier, which claimed that Iraq had been importing uranium from Niger and, most controversially, estimated that Saddam Hussein could ready a WMD attack within 45 minutes. The film takes these real-life political issues, and narrates them through a fictional plot regarding Alex Morgan (Simon Lenagan), a desk officer for MI6, who becomes entangled in the mystery and inconsistency behind the dossier's dubious evidence.

It is a slick, confident film, with narrative flaws that only come with the territory - taking one of the most complicated international scandals of recent history, and burying it in a fictional plot, can only complicate matters further (unlike, say, a documentary on the same topic, or even a straight dramatisation). For the most part, though, the strident political subtext keeps its composure, only rarely straying anywhere near soapbox ranting - but the result is a taut, fish-out-of-water thriller sourced from real life politics, and, where its core issues are concerned, not much more.

However, the real attraction is found in the direction. Holroyd and company decided to go with an ultra-naturalistic approach, that served their realistic theme. The film, as it is played out, is supposed to be a spliced together from footage from hidden cameras, as Morgan is tailed by surveillance agents. The resourcefulness of the production team really shows here, as digital cameras are stored away in coffee shops, office buildings, and cars, or are placed at oblique angles, on adjacent tables, or are carried by shady, out-of-frame agents.

On a mundane level, it is fascinating to simply marvel at the savvy production work, and spot the locations in London, Rome and Berlin that they have brought onside (including the BFI Southbank and, seemingly, a central London Starbucks). On a more thematic, subtextual level, however, it subtly strenghtens the film's impact - creating an alternative narrative of its own, of the criss-crossing cameras, and of the tapped wires. It helps not only to fix the viewier in Alex's world, but it also creates a tense air, never letting go of the fact that there are much larger powers at work.

WMD is certainly a promising film, and luckily there are a number of opportunities to see it in the near future. The film goes on general release on October 15th, available for download through LoveFilm, Amazon and iTunes. If you're emotionally attached to the cinema, however, there are two events coming up as well, with the Shortwave Cinema hosting a Q&A screening with Holroyd on the 15th, and the Frontline Club hosting a similar Q&A screening on the 20th. For more information, visit

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