Four Lions Review
The British have really been on their game when it comes to political satire the last few years. First they came out with In the Loop, a behind the scenes look at U.S.-U.K. relations and how politicians can screw up just like the rest of us. Then, last year, Christopher Morris won a BAFTA for direction and writing with his debut film Four Lions, about bumbling members of the Mujahideen in England that give us the chance to laugh about terrorism.
The film follows Omar, the de facto leader of a wannabe terrorist cell that includes his friends Waj, Fiasal, Hassan, and Barry. Wait, Barry? Yes, one of the terrorists of this film is named Barry, which tells you right away what we’re dealing with. Omar is in charge of this group not because he is the most intelligent, but because he is the least stupid. For a while it does seem like Omar has it together, but we realize he just looks the smartest when compared to the other guys, especially when he tries to convince his son that lying about doing a bad thing can be the right choice by comparing the experience to The Lion King.
Luckily, Morris does a great job of allowing the audience to care about these idiot terrorists. They aren’t the cold, calculating and unemotional men that we have been conditioned to envision when the word ‘terrorist’ is mentioned. These are guys that ridicule, joke around, and care about each other just like any other group of friends. I came to really like each guy, and the interplay between the different characters was very funny and enjoyable to watch. This only amplifies the impressiveness on Morris’ part when killing off characters doesn’t delve into sappy emotion, but stays true to the tone and executed with the same humor as the rest of the film.
With the characters firmly in place, the jokes and situational humor land perfectly. The film starts out looking like it was just going to be a series of set pieces that focused on one aspect of the terrorist planning process, with one short running joke in each. Thankfully, after the first three scenes, the movie picks itself up and continues on with a traditional plotline, where some jokes take longer to develop, and therefore can last longer throughout the movie. Most of the humor is tied in with the terrorist mindset, like shaking your head when outside so any cameras only get a blurry version of your face. But we also are treated to other gags that are funny because of the seriousness of the situation they take place in. For example, on the way to their chosen bombing target, the group is blasting “Dancing in the Moonlight” in the van, singing to it the whole way.
At the heart of this movie are the characters and the humor. That’s the reason to see this film, which I highly recommend doing (it’s currently on Netflix Instant). There is, however, a theme tied in dealing with religion, because of the correlation between Islam and terrorism. Many times throughout the film the characters will verbally wonder if what they are doing or what has happened is God’s plan. The interesting thing about this, though, is that we can never know what that plan may be. That’s the whole point of God: that we can’t know what He intends for us, if He is even there or cares about anything at all. The film makes this point at the end, when most of the characters have a change of heart about their plot. I believe that Morris, through a humorous lens, is declaring that we must attempt to learn more about terrorist ideology if we ever want to rid the world of that evil. But he’s also saying that terrorists can be stupid, and that fearing them outright is kind of stupid on our part too.