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
With The Day Today and its more acerbic follow-up Brasseye, supreme satirist Chris Morris made a mockery of the madness of the popular media by saying what he saw. It was funny because it could have been true. With Four Lions, Morris's focus is no longer on the manipulator, but rather the manipulated. Yet by presenting this jihad suicide squad as a group of bumbling misfits, chugging along the road to apotheosis in a car fitted with dodgy "Jewish spark plugs", it's still about the madness here, the madness of a cracked ideology believed in mostly because it's made up as it goes along.
This is not really a film about Islam, or even religious fundamentalism, but identity. Omar (an excellent Riz Ahmed) speaks fluently about the "Church of McDonald's" and Western imperialism, and yet he's at the centre of a comfortable, suburban, upper working class family unit. Hassan (Arsher Ali) is an awkward, gangly virgin with a bone to pick with his Media Studies teacher. Barry (Nigel Lindsay, who some might remember playing a terrorist of a different creed in HBO's Rome) is white.
For all their misadventures, there's a genuine tenderness and loyalty between these "soldiers". This is a side of Morris we've rarely seen before an emotional spine that raises the film far above what could have resembled a series of sketches or, worse, a reel of better outtakes. Perhaps this is the film's greatest success: bringing its director out of the satirical shadows and into the comedy spotlight, and proving there's a heart to go with that clever head.
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