Directed by: Chris Morris
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Length: 97 mins
Released: 1 January 1970
Cat No: OPTD1898
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Black comedy directed by Chris Morris (’Brass Eye’, ’The Day Today’). Riz Ahmed plays Omar, a devout British-based Muslim who forms a... Read More
This gripping, audacious film tracks a group of wannabe British suicide bombers as they plot a terror attack on the London Marathon. But Four Lions is not a 24-style thriller; instead, Brass Eye creator Chris Morris has taken a hard-hitting topic and turned it into a jaunty farce in the classic Ealing tradition.
Despite its taboo subject matter, Four Lions marks a genuine change of pace for the arch-satirist. Morris has set out to prick the myth of martyrdom and the pomposity of Islamic extremism, but this is a surprisingly intimate, heartfelt Dad's Army style-comedy which never allows the audience to shield themselves behind sandbags of cynicism.
Whilst Brass Eye and The Day Today spoofed the linguistic contortions of the news media and the banal idiocy of camera-hungry pundits, in his feature film debut Morris seems less interested in mocking the medium, and more about delivering a message. As Morris puts it: "Terrorism is about ideology, but it's also about berks".
Co-writted by Peep Show writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, the film follows Omar (Riz Ahmed), an idealistic young father in a happy marriage, who is determined to prove himself to his son by waging Jihad somewhere, somehow. He enlists Waj (Kayvan Novak), an easily-led half-wit, Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), an ingenious yet clumsy bombmaker, Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a strident convert to Islam, and Hassan (Arsher Ali), a protester and would-be rapper.
Together they try to assemble the materials for a bomb and find a suitable target. Faisal suggests they attack Boots the chemist, as they "sell condoms which make us want to have sex with white girls", and straps bombs to trained crows, whilst Barry suggests a mosque (or kebab shop), in order to radicalise ordinary Muslims. Meanwhile, Omar awaits instructions from a mysterious overseas Sheik, but after a series of mishaps, decides that the gang should go it alone.
Copious amounts of ink has been spilt about what motivates suicide attacks; Fox News has re-branded perpetrators as 'homicide bombers', whilst others have explained away their actions as desperate reactions to impossible circumstances.
Morris's take is simpler, but surely more true: suicide bombers are idiots: motivated by ideals and prejudices they barely understand, working towards half-baked ends they can never achieve, using means that - were it not for their horrific purpose - would be mocked for their home-made, cobbled together quality.
Four Lions is painfully, absurdly funny, but it is underscored by an unexpected sense of pathos. We are never asked to sympathise with the hapless terrorists, but scenes with Omar and his wife and child, who encourage him to pursue his mission against all odds, are as poignant as they are disturbing. And as the story approaches its climax, Four Lions impresses with sequences as suspenseful as any Hollywood blockbuster.