Best bumbling terrorist comedy of the year.
Now that I got that out of the way, Four Lions is the feature-length debut of Christopher Morris. This doesn't mean much to most Americans, but it should. Some may know of Christopher Morris from his stint in the first season/series of The I.T. Crowd, where he played Denholm Reynholm. More importantly, with Armando Iannucci (whose own feature-length debut, In the Loop, got quite a bit of recognition last year), Morris co-created the seminal British news satire series The Day Today, which was a reinvention of their radio program[me] On the Hour. If you are not familiar with either of these productions, perhaps the character Alan Partridge will mean something to you, as Steve Coogan first played him there.
So if it wasn't for Christopher Morris, we'd have never gotten to enjoy this:
Having laid that bit of foundation, Morris's feature-length debut is largely a success. While much more character-driven than plot-driven, Four Lions consists of a band of four then five then four Islamo-British suicide bombers who bumble their way through a bomb plot. Not to be outdone, British law enforcement does their fair share of mucking things up, ranging from raiding the wrong home to a sniper erroneously shooting a runner in a Wookie costume when instructed to shoot a runner in a bear costume.
But this comedy is mostly about the terrorists. Their idiocy is supremely entertaining. Barry, played by Nigel Lindsay, is the paranoid conspiracy theorist white Jihadist who fancies himself a great thinker but whose brilliant idea it is to bomb a mosque to radicalize the moderate muslims. Adeel Akhtar plays Fessal, the imbecile extremist who is training crows to fly bombs through windows, who has to keep his dad from eating the newspaper, and who disguises his voice when buying dozens of bottles of bleach at the same neighborhood store despite not wearing a disguise. Hassan (Asher Ali) seems more concerned with how he'd fit in with characters from Tupac songs than the bomb plot and ends up jamming to King Harvest's "Dancing in the Moonlight" with Julia Davis when he is supposed to be keeping their safe house secure. Kayvan Novak's deliciously dim turn as Omar's best friend, Waj, sees him taking pictures of himself on his cellphone to see the expression on his face and uses a comically small toy AK-47 in one of their terrorist videos.
And then there's Omar. The star. The ringleader. Perhaps the most mentally together of the bunch. Yes, this guy (played brilliantly by Riz Ahmed) puts his son to bed with tales of a Jihad-adapted Lion King allegory. He has to try to talk sense into his mujahideen when they are deadset on bombing the mosque as per Barry's plan. And despite his being the brains in the group, he commits arguably the biggest gaffe. As approached by a drone when left alone at a mujahideen training camp in Pakistan, he takes up a rocket launcher and shoots it in the wrong direction with disastrous results.
Now what is weird, is that despite their reprehensible cause, their gross stupidity actually causes you to pity them a bit. While they may spew anti-Semitic sentiments here and there, their actual grasp on their cause is shockingly uninformed. They are so poorly informed and their ability to process information with any logical thought is so challenged that you'd think they got their news from--oh, you know where I'm going with this. Their hatred of heretics is so uninformed and their goal of martyrdom to go to a heaven that is basically like an amusement park is so childishly innocent that it is hard to stir up much anger towards them. Perhaps this is because their ineptness throughout leaves you so sure that they couldn't really do much harm that their holy war can't seem anything more than quaint.
Regardless, the knife definitely cuts both ways in this film, and the British government is held in equally low esteem in this biting, dark satire. While ironically plotless, this film about a terrorist plot works pretty damn well.
Dear Powers that Be,
I do not need to be watch listed. This is a film review. The only way I need to be watch listed is if it is for a blog that has devoted an absurd amount of time to the subject of Kim Richards and once derived an unseemly amount of its traffic from people searching for 'soapy cock shots' on Google. And I suppose there was that short series about my disdain for Battlestar Galactica. if I need to be watch listed for that, then go ahead I suppose, but BSG was bullshit.