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Four Lions (2010)

Film review: Four Lions (2010), directed by Christopher (Chris) Morris

The only thing I knew about this film before seeing it is that it’s meant to be funny and be about some would-be suicide bombers. I was not disappointed!

Set in Sheffield, we meet a group of “homegrown” Islamic would-be terrorists. Omar (Riz Ahmed) is disgruntled with the Western world and its wonky ideals, but even though he is married and has a child, he still doesn’t mind blowing himself up for the cause. Joining him is Waj (Kayvan Novak), a man who’s lack of intelligence is baffling; Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) isn’t far behind him, so to speak – he keeps trying to train crows to deliver bombs, for starters; and Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a white convert who is as radical as any “born again” person of any religious persuasion. Joining them is Hassan (Arsher Ali), who is reluctant to be drawn into actual acts of terrorism, but why not, you know?

Omar and Waj go to training camp in Pakistan … and come back home with a bucketload of experience – allegedly, and they start preparing bombs and plan what their big target should be. Boots? (They sell condoms that make you want to have sex with white girls.) Barry suggests blowing up a mosque, because they’d never expect it, and they could pin it on the non-believers, thereby making the moderate Muslims rise up.

Let’s face it – as far as religious devotion goes, they haven’t got it. As a contrast, Omar’s brother is a kind, soft-spoken and clearly very religious man who wants peace and keeps asking Omar to join in his study group and find enlightenment … so the film doesn’t poke fun at Islam or its believers, it pokes (more like stabs) fun at the kind of people who claim to be Muslim but who clearly just want to fight for the sake of fighting.

So, is it any good? To be honest, when I heard it was a black comedy, I went “ooh”, because we both enjoy those tremendously. Did we enjoy this? Oh yeah. It’s exactly the sort of film that tickles our funny-bones and there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in Four Lions. You know, the sort of humour where you shouldn’t really laugh because to do so would kind of be inappropriate, but you can’t help it because it’s just so darn funny? Bingo, that’s the one! Dialogue, actions, just everything is funny. Then again, the director is the guy who played Denholm Reynholm in The IT Crowd, and his fellow writers have written for comedy shows like Peep Show, Smack the Pony, That Mitchell and Webb Look and The Armstrong and Miller Show, so it is to be expected!

The most bizarre thing is that Sofia (Preeya Kalidas), Omar’s wife, seems to be perfectly happy for her husband to sacrifice himself, even though that would leave their child without a father. Maybe that’s just to show the absurdity of the whole situation, I don’t know.

Enjoyed the brief roles played by Alex MacQueen as the MP (he was the stooge in Magicians, which had the much of the same writing team behind as this), Benedict Cumberbatch in a fetching beard as a negotiator, and Darren Boyd (Dirk Gently) and Kevin Eldon (Hot Fuzz) as a couple of snipers who were told to take down the guy in a bear costume, and ended up shooting a Wookie – only to have an argument as to whether or not a Wookie is a bear.

If you like dark and absurd comedies, Four Lions is for you. If you think the mere topic of making fun of inept suicide bombing terrorists is in any way distasteful or wrong, don’t bother and grow a sense of humour while you’re at it. The point of this is that while yes, they want to kill people, they are so pathetically bad at it that you can’t NOT laugh at them. Four Lions is a refreshing antidote to the fear-mongering terrorist hype we have today. Everyone tells us we should fear the terrorists, but isn’t that what they want? To cause terror? Perhaps we should try to laugh at them instead?

5 out of 5 rubber dinghys.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) where she lives with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted on the way.

5 thoughts on “Four Lions (2010)

  1. I like black comedies. Sounds like a very touchy topic if you say it’s handled properly, I’ll put it on my Netflix queue.

    BTW, I love your reviews. You write them they way a casual viewer would understand.

  2. I loved this film. I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages and I actually laughed out loud several times which is something missing from most ‘comedies’! It a brave piece of film-making in this day to take a shot (!) at fundamentalism, people have had fatwas against them for less. Chris Morris did a brilliant job of pointing up the absurdities of the whole thing. As for the wife, I took it that she was there to make the point that a westernised, supposedly caring (she was hospital staff) person can be taken in by all the idealism of it too, they don’t have to be braindead nutters.

  3. redlyn: Agreed! I find it rare that I laugh out loud at comedies too, and this one had several that had me in stitches. You’re probably right about the wife. Surprised there wasn’t an outcry (that I remember) from this film, but then again, they’re good at portraying faithful Muslims as nice guys, and the whole scene where they can’t even tell which direction Mecca is in just shows how little the wannabe terrorists actually knew of the faith they were so eager to die for!

    judiang: Thanks! Good to know I have succeeded in what I aim to do! To have someone talking about “juxtapositions” and … [words to that ilk] doesn’t mean anything to someone who just enjoys a film now and then and who couldn’t care less about symbolism or all that malarky. What I think most of us want from a film review is “am I likely to enjoy it or not?” Some films are highly critically acclaimed and when you watch them, you want to cry because they’re so mind-numbingly dull! As for the film, yes it’s a VERY touchy subject, but it felt as if they were respectful toward the REAL faith, and the wannabe terrorists weren’t exactly glorified. 😉

  4. Well, I like the word juxtapose and symbolism is important to me as a viewer, but I liked this review, too. 🙂

    I loved this film, just loved it. My favorite scene was the one where Faisal accidentally blows up his pet crow slightly too soon. I agree that the topic of inept suicide bombers is an edgy one, but I felt like the makers of this film were always sophisticated enough to prevent themselves from descending either into racism or making the topic harmless. This was a top film fo 2010 for me and probably for the whole decade.

  5. servetus: Thanks! 🙂 The pet crow thing, was one where we just looked at each other and thought “okay, it’s gonna be THIS kind of film – good to know!” His views were that it’s the funniest thing we’ve seen since Tropic Thunder. And we LOVE that film!

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