Four Lions tells the story of a group of British jihadists who push their abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point. As the wheels fly off, and their competing ideologies clash, what emerges is an emotionally engaging (and entirely plausible) farce. In a storm of razor-sharp verbal jousting and large-scale set pieces, Four Lions is a comic tour de force; it shows that-while terrorism is about ideology-it can also be about idiots. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
both hilarious comedy and contemporary social commentary
The film can be approached from two angles; as a comedy and as an important contemporary cultural text. As a comedy it succeeded beyond expectations. Part of the pleasure surely came from the spectacle of the event; a sold out screening with cast and crew present along with regional cultural references that resonated infectiously with many in the audience, but this can take nothing away from the many levels of comedy at work within this film. There were elements of overacted screwball comedy; there were underplayed facial expressions and reactions that added a wealth of character and personality to the comedy; further still, there were elaborately constructed situational set pieces. All these elements along with explosively dynamic dialogue that was well delivered combined to send the audience into tears of laughter.
In a separate issue to the comedy there was the cultural commentary, which is always going to draw attention when it is such a taboo subject as Jihad: a word that is often avoided at all costs. The film unapologetically offers a plethora of questions around motivation, meaning and justification which it never falls into the trap of giving patronizing, melodramatic answers to nor does it preach any solutions.
The many characters were all utilised to give different points of views and different perspectives; the main protagonist Omar (Riz Ahmed) was fully fleshed out, with the other characters used to offer differing ideas and obviously the above mentioned comic relief. Omar's brother for instance had such a minor part but raises questions around what he considers a true following of Islam, which he promotes as peaceful, but is then exposed as intrinsically sexist due to the way he practically locks his wife in a cupboard. That being said, Islam itself was to a large extent sidelined and the film much more overtly dealt with identification and senses of belonging for a demographic that has partial but not complete grips on the many angles of where its identity is created; this includes Barry (Nigel Lindsay), the Caucasian convert amongst the group.
Four Lions is easily funny enough to reach a very wide audience, where viewers will be left without answers and therefore forced to discuss these issues, which are too often brushed under the proverbial rug.
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