The movie from Christopher Morris (still most famous here in the UK for his absolutely brilliant “Brass Eye” show) all about terrorist and terrorism, Four Lions will surprise many people by being very different from what they expected but that doesn’t necessarily make the movie a bad thing.
The story revolves around a group of people, led by Omar (Riz Ahmed), who decide to martyr themselves and become suicide bombers – striking a blow against the consumerist society surrounding them. Including Babybel (???). Everything is made more difficult by the fact that a) those involved are largely idiotic and b) there are other things in their personal life prompting doubt and hesitancy.
While it didn’t cause an uproar when released (and, in fact, received much acclaim from the critics), there is certainly an element of some easy media-baiting here, something that director and co-writer Morris is very used to. Terrorists not being portrayed as monsters? Suicide bombers being mocked? Someone joking about jihadists? Few could deny that it’s a bold and brave move but those used to the scabrous wit of Morris looking over everything with a cold, unblinking eye will be surprised to find that he takes great care with this outing to add plenty of heart, too.
The central subject matter has been thoroughly researched and, despite the absurdity of events, rings true most of the time but it’s everything woven in and around it that provides the most food for thought. The exploration of things such as how those involved in such nefarious plans can be so easily manipulated, how the truth can be bent and shaped to the will of a personal agenda and how people can use any set of beliefs to support their own path through life, however hypocritical that may be (most wonderfully shown in the scenes between Omar and his devout brother).
The cast are all great. Riz Ahmed gets to do a lot as Omar, not the brightest bulb ever but dazzling in comparison to his cohorts. Kayvan Novak is hilarious as the confused Waj, a man who can be talked into an act of terrorism as long as it is compared to getting yourself onto the Rubber Dinghy Rapids at Alton Towers. Nigel Lindsay is also hilarious as Barry, a white man who always makes sure he’s more extreme than those around him. Then we have Arsher Ali and Adeel Akhtar, playing Hassan and Fessal respectively, and both do great with the latter having, arguably, two of the movie’s funniest moments.
There were moments in this movie that had me laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face (an argument about a wookie and a bear was just one of the funniest things I’d seen in an absolute age) but the best thing to bear in mind when going in to view this movie is that it is not JUST a comedy. Yes, it’s very funny in places and has many sharp one-liners but this is a delicate balancing act that doesn’t demonise the hapless humans on show or help sugar-coat the pill by providing too many broad laughs. It’s uncomfortable in many places, almost movingly sad in others and feels far too sadly real in the less absurd moments. A very good film that’s worth seeing without the cloud of hype and hysteria that some may use around it. Much like other material produced by Morris.
DIRECTOR: CHRISTOPHER MORRIS
CAST: RIZ AHMED, KAYVAN NOVAK, NIGEL LINDSAY, ARSHER ALI, ADEEL AKHTAR
RUNTIME: APPROX 101 MINS