Saturday, May 08, 2010

Four Lions (15)

Directed by Christopher Morris
Written by Sam Bain, Jesse Armstrong and Christopher Morris
On general release from 7th May 2010


Throughout an often brilliant two decade career, Chris Morris (The Day Today, Brass Eye, Jam, Nathan Barley) has used controversy to delightfully subversive effect, holding a darkened mirror up to the media and other pillars of the establishment. But controversy and comedy are not necessarily the same thing, and there are times when Morris' big screen debut falls short for precisely that reason.

The first (and presumably last) 'suicide bomb-com', Four Lions tells the tale of four jihadists, bent on holy war against western imperialist infidels in the Yorkshire area. Sheep, crows and pharmacists beware!

Apart from their de facto leader Omar (the promising Riz Ahmed), the gang are confused and emotionally stunted shambling incompetents. Much of the comedy comes from the synthesis of their reactionary extremism and extreme ordinariness. This leads them down "a sad, fucked-up cul-de-sac of rubbish", according to Morris, and it's hard to disagree. But then who amongst us hasn't taken a trip down the odd one of those?

Amongst all the laughs, the most powerful moments come in moments of vulnerability, such as when Omar tells his child a mujahid version of The Lion King, or the easily misled Waj (Kayvan Novak) expresses doubts about blowing himself up during the London marathon. In these precious few moments, we are presented with scared and naive young men, trying to help those suffering in Afghanistan and around the Muslim world with the very limited resources at their disposal. Peep Show writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong bring out the farcical futility of it all with great skill, but ultimately Morris and co. gleefully surf the wave of jihad madness, rather than engaging with it on any meaningful level.
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