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.Take a look at what's new today!
Omar (Ahmed), a radicalised British Muslim, forms a terrorist cell with his obtuse brother, Waj (Novak). Omar and this newly-formed group unveil their plans of suicide bombings on an unsuspecting Western target.
Now, then - how do I give this film all the praise it absolutely deserves without coming off as insensitive, naive and offensive ...?
This is the problem that faces any reviewer when analysing any of Director Chris Morris’ work. Much like Chris Morris’ work for television, ‘Four Lions’ consistently borders the absolute extreme to make for comfortable viewing. Morris’ unsafe comedy focuses on a group of 5 jihadists, as they clumsily attempt to execute their ultimate plan; successful suicide bombings on a Western target.
Whilst Morris makes our protagonist(s) likeable with their bumbling manner and simple-minded nature, he is never sure to forget the pure danger they face to themselves and others. This is a brave, brave film with a vast amount of complexity.
Omar (played by Riz Ahmed) and his simple brother, Waj (Kayvan Novak) are British Jihadist’s that form a terrorist cell along with bomb-maker Fassal (Adeel Akhtar) and angry converted Westerner Barry (Nigel Lyndsay). Omar and Raj travel to Pakistan to a Mujahedeen training camp, where they are deemed liabilities and they are soon sent home for acting like buffoons. On their return to the U.K, they learn that Barry has recruited wannabe rapper Hassan (Arsher Ali) to help execute their master plan. The 5 of them trail different methods of bomb-making and toy with various targets that they could bomb – including a Mosque and a chemist – before deciding to attack a fun-run, in the heart of the city centre.
These characters are drawn together for their own personal agenda, it seems, as they don’t appear to be victims to any specific form of oppression - instead placing the blame for their devastating intentions on ‘Slags and Jews’.
At the film’s heart it convincingly portrays an ideal of brotherly love interestingly juxtaposed with this notion of extremism. There is a scene when Omar and Waj have arrived in Pakistan the night before they are ready to start training, and they ask themselves the question if one would kill the other if he had to, comparing the ascension into heaven/Martyrdom to having the choice between waiting in line for the ‘Water Dinghy Rapids’ at a famous U.K theme park, or being on the ride itself. It’s a fascinating (albeit, alien) approach to displaying these character’s genuine humanity that has a warmth to it that one cannot doubt.
As the time comes for the group to utilise the plan they have poorly prepared for the entire film, complexities get in the way including cold-feet and Omar’s feelings of guilt for brainwashing his brother into his plan. The film’s climax, as explosive as it becomes, is entirely emotionally driven and audience is sure to experience contradicting feels as the climax comes to a wonderful and unforgettable end (don’t forget to watch during the credits too, where the film shows the consequences of their actions in the eyes of the media and their plan caught by the ever-watchful eye of CCTV – all of which is fascinating and “eye-opening”).
Chris Morris adapts a very interesting visual style for this comedy; it looks as guerrilla as the terrorist cell itself and is as unsteady as their methods and stability imply. The script (co-written by Morris) is full with many moments of concentrated hilarity. The cast do a spectacular job of delivering these lines with perfect comic timing. The cast here is wonderfully assembled, most of which are made up of entirely unknowns (the most famous face being Kayvan Novak, famous for his U.K series, ‘PhoneJacker’). This reviewer expects that to change with the critical success of ‘Four Lions’ and its impending oversees success, no-doubt (‘Four Lions’ most recently opened the Sundance festival).
This film has Chris Morris written all over it; it’s dark, it’s taboo and it’s incredible. Filled with funny, warm characters with a whole heap of bittersweet-ness, Morris’ latest work will leave the audience with the perfect opportunity for philosophical debate (if you’re into that sort of thing) and will leave you thinking about ‘Four Lions’ long, long after it’s finished.
So please, go see this film. You won't be disappointed.