Four Lions

A mixture of cutting satire and absurdism.

Released in 2010, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 15 Jan 2012 by Scott Morris
Four Lions image

There's few comedians more controversial than Chris Morris, and for my money at least, few more successful. Deftly combining scathing media and social commentary with massively amusing absurdism, often with well placed skewering of celebrity culture at the same time, he's made the most farsighted, prophetic and damnably funny comedies of the past 20 years. After the tabloid baiting of the Brass Eye pedophile special, the only surprising element of the news that he'd decided to make a comedy about jihadi suicide bombers was that he'd taken so long to come up with it.

Here, Omar (Riz Ahmed) seemingly has enough of this decadent Western culture and decides to go on a bit of a jihad. When we meet him he's already joined a terrorist cell, of sorts. Nominal leader is the distinctly Caucasian Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a well known and obvious crackpot. There's also Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who's planning to strap explosives to his pet crows and fly them into tower blocks, to kill, in his words, "slags and Jews". Omar's brother Waj (Kayvan Novak) is going along for the ride, mainly because he's outsourced most of his decision making to Omar on account of him being thicker than most planks.

Soon, it's apparent that Omar is the only member present with the merest hint of a clue about this sort of thing, although his performance at a Pakistani training camp proves that he's no Bin Laden himself. Returning with his tail between his legs, he nevertheless presses on with his own plan to 'activate' the cell and strike a blow for radical Islam. Things progress about as well as you might expect from such a gang of idiots.

I'm going to try to avoid spoiling the gags, so you'll just have to trust me that it's massively funny. I'm backed up on this somewhat by the quality of the guys behind it, whether we're talking about Morris himself or the additional writing team of Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Sam Bain, collectively responsible for The Thick Of It/In The Loop/Peep Show, at which point we've pretty much completed the 'brilliant British comedy' sweepstake.

While it's obviously shot on a shoestring, it doesn't look tawdry and the direction and comic performances from the entire cast more than hide this, with some exceptional delivery and timing on the lines.

It's the lines themselves that shine though, mixing the deadly serious with the absurd in fascinating, hilarious ways. I want desperately to quote them here for the next few hundred words or so, but that wouldn't be fair to you, as my shonkily remembered rendition of them wouldn't be a patch on the real thing. You really owe it to yourself to hear them in their full glory.

While it's in the main concerning itself with the absurdity of people who want to blow themselves up for their personal equivalent of Invisible Space Jesus, it's important to recognise that this film is in no way racist. In fact, quite the opposite, as it takes more than one jab at the institutional racism of the British police force and the complete failure of their intelligence services, drawing parallels with the tragic De Menezis tube shootings some years back.

I'm sure if your looking for things to be offended by, as most of the super-fundamentalist religious fruitbats are, then you'll find something here to offend you - but only because you are blinded to the truths of how the world sees you, and indeed how you are.

If you're in the camp that think that Terrorism is No Laughing Matter, then I'm afraid you're looking at entirely the wrong film and entirely the wrong reviewer. On a personal, day to day level, the only way I have of fighting terrorism is to refuse to be terrorised by it, regardless of the gleefully inflated, newspaper-shifting hysteria around it. It's difficult to be terrorised of something when you're busy laughing at it, which is something Morris understands and utilises to tremendous effect.

Brilliance. Go watch it.

Christopher Morris
Cast list:
Riz Ahmed (Omar)
Kayvan Novak (Waj)
Nigel Lindsay (Barry)
Adeel Akhtar (Faisal)
Preeya Kalidas (Sophia)