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Four Lions

Film Four Stars
I was a fan of Chris Morris from his television days, although I did think that sometimes he went a little too far, I loved his biting sarcasm and willingness to ridicule and laugh at things many held sacred or thought taboo to even raise a smile to. When talking about Four Lions his belief has been similar, plenty of research measured with huge doses of sarcasm and the ability to laugh at everything, for if we laugh at what scares us it stops scaring us.

Anyway, that's the idea behind the film and my history with Chris Morris, I loved The Day Today and enjoyed Brass Eye, and the idea of his new film was intriguing, taking film-making somewhere where it had previously feared to tread.

With all that I was hopeful for a biting, political satire, filled with laughter and stupidity.

Plot.pngFour Lions is the story of a group of British Jihadists who are planning their Jihad on British soil, however try as they might, their plans are beset by ineptitude and stupidity at every turn, and their greatest enemy seems to be themselves.

Omar is their leader, the man with the ideology and the desire to commit Jihad, and he tries to lead them forward but his group consists of Waj, who lacks the brains to carry out the simplest of tasks or to even understand what it is he's really doing and relies on Omar's instructions; Barry, the white Islamic convert who is about as bullish and thick skulled as the average British street corner yob, and Fessal, the man who knows the technicalities of making the bombs, and carries little more intelligence than Waj.

TheFilm.pngFirst up I'm going to say it clear, I really do agree with what I said before, to laugh at something is to take away its power. While some might immediately baulk at the idea of making a comedy about Jihadist terrorists, it makes perfect sense to me. What else are we going to do, sit in fear of a media built enemy who they would have us believe are undetectable and unstoppable? Not me.

Morris spent something like four years investigating and researching real terrorists and terrorist training camps to understand what these people were really about before embarking on this film. So if anything he's way more qualified than most to show some reality of just who these people are. They're fallible, they make mistakes, they laugh and joke, and they're dangerous, and that's exactly what he portrays in Four Lions.

There are really two sections to the film, the comedy, which runs for most of the film, then the harder, more serious side of the story, where the terrorists try and reach their ultimate goal, and right here in Britain.

Chris Morris and Four Lions didn't try and shirk away from the real story. The film didn't try and hide behind the comedy, and it did explore the darker side of the events and the characters. After all with Morris' research, he would have us believe that this is closer to the truth than many of the media portrayals of terrorists we see.

During the main section of the film we see these characters try and find their plan for Jihad, and to train themselves and it's through this that the comedy is revealed to some good effect.

I did find myself laughing quite a number of times, ranging from snickers and chuckles to some louder giggles and a few laughs, and that was despite being one of only a couple of press in to see the film - the screening had been cancelled and only a couple of us hadn't realised about it and turned up for the early showing.

What's important about that is the infectious ability of laughter, think about how much easier it is to let yourself go and laugh out loud when there is a packed audience around you and are laughing or giggling away, and in an empty cinema with three people who are harsh critics, none of it rests on that infectious factor, it's all about how the film affected the individual, and it did.

There's another harder factor to consider, me. I don't take kindly to the average comedy, and in particular the average American comedy, I don't like the old British comedy days, I'm not a fan of slapstick, and comedy at other people's expense doesn't win me over. The comedy I like is intelligent, clever and sharp.

So Four Lions won me over, there was indeed plenty of humour. Some scenes are very funny, such as the moment we've seen in some clips and trailers where Fessal is explaining how he's been stockpiling all the chemicals from his local wholesaler by disguising himself and his voice. You know where the comedy is going, but the delivery and the physical comedy around the disguises, as well as the continual layering of the joke, just made it ludicrously silly, and it got right to my funny bone.

However it's through the comedy that I also found part of the weakness of the film. I did feel that during the comic section of the film that the comedy was sometimes too silly, too over the top, and it felt like it was pushing further away from reality and into a Dad's Army type story. Funny yes, but the characters were a little too silly for the way I thought the story was supposed to be going.

That also felt at odds with what I had been expecting from Morris considering his television career, his biting satirical humour that cut to the truth of the situation while delivering entertainment and comedy. I do wish much of this comedy had been pulled back a little and delivered something more intelligent.

However there are two comebacks to that statement. One is that Brass Eye and The Day Today are shows from a long time ago, and there's no reason that his humour should have stayed in that same place through all this time. Two is that without this level of comedy, in the latter half of the film the impact just wouldn't have been the same.

It's only during the accidental sheep scene that the reality of the situation comes crashing in on them and on you, and it's here that I felt I truly shared the stunned silence of the characters and one could say almost shock.

I actually think that this scene, and the film around it, is very cleverly crafted to bring that feeling forward, to hit you with some cold, hard reality after all this quite unreal comedy. After settling you in comfortably to a world of film comedy, it comes as some surprise to discover that these characters don't actually inhabit that safe world. It certainly packs a powerful punch in that one scene and from there the feelings of the film turn around.

It's at this point of the film where the Chris Morris I remember starts to come back and we're faced with some cold hard truths of the world between bursts of laughter and stupidity. It's here that I really began to realise that Four Lions really was taking me from one extreme to the other and yet managing to keep the tension in me, keep me on edge and even in one moment frightening me, while still managing to make me spurt out a laugh the next.

The end of the film brings some shocks and surprises, but what it also does is manage to convey the stupidity and blindness of the people involved in the situation. I remember sitting watching the credits slightly shocked at what I had seen and thinking over the real life situations and how this film perhaps applies to them.

The actors are great with comic timing and all of them give performances which are not only funny, but also draw you in to their characters. I particularly enjoyed that of Riz Ahmed as Omar and Nigel Lindsay as Barry, the two leads who were often at loggerheads to control the group. Their characters couldn't be further apart and both were funny in very different ways, managing to convey the stronger aspects of the story at the same time as the comedy, almost effortlessly.

Overall.pngFour Lions will leave you unnerved and thoughtful, it will provoke and entertain, and in my mind it's a hugely successful film for having achieved these things.

There's a whole lot of credit that has to go to the writer/director Chris Morris, as well as the actors themselves for managing to pull off roles which demand so much of them. Morris has produced such an intelligent script that manages to combine humour, some satirical commentary on our societies and cultures, and address some dangerously difficult subjects.

Meanwhile the actors have managed to convey this tricky script as characters that have to seem as though they are committed and as serious through even the strangest and silliest of moments, and they manage it with ease.

You have to marvel at how well the film manages to skirt that thin line and balance between the comedy of the script and darkness of subject matter, and then in the closing stages bring through such serious elements and keep the comedy running.

While I think it lacks some of the sharp bite that I associate with the television side of Chris Morris, it still is a powerful film that has a lot to deliver, from laughs to some extremely thoughtful moments.

Although it has flaws, Four Lions is a superb film, a great laugh, and manages to allow us to make light and find fun in a subject you never would have believed had any humour, and yet makes a strong statement about the futility and idiocy of the fanatical terrorist.

UK IMDB Film Details



Four lions is a really great movie!



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