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Four Lions: An explosive British comedy

Four Lions is a hilarious British movie and that shouldn’t be missed Credit: Film4

“Four Lions” is a comedy about terrorists. Chris Morris, a British comedian and director of the film, taps into what is potentially the most controversial and taboo subject matter of our time to create a farce that is entirely original.

The movie follows five radical Muslims in Sheffield, England, drawn together to attempt to destroy what they consider to be a corrupt capitalist system. There are times where the story crosses the line of political correctness, but it is always aware that the line exists.

The groups motives always appear to be political at root, and not of a religious nature. The characters all believe that their actions are righteous and that they will be rewarded in heaven, but they are not conveyed as being radicals because they are Muslim, they are simply radical and Muslim.

The comedy comes from how inept the “jihadists” are, they frequently make ridiculous errors in high stakes situations and are casually ignorant of the effects their actions. The film is quick to make sure that it isn’t just Muslims who are stupid: everyone is stupid.

The police make stereotypical bumbling errors, an average British citizen is unaware of the fact that there is a terrorist plot being hatched in the apartment next door and people casually dismiss real threats in favor of searching for evidence in all of the wrong places.

Filled with sight gags, the film would be a typical juvenile comedy if not for the background information. It is impossible to watch the movie without thinking about the events of 9/11 and the actions of the group closely mirror the real-life terrorist bombings of London, or the 7/7 attacks.

The filmmakers were obviously aware of this while making the movie, and the comedy is thus uncomfortable throughout. It is impossible to divorce the fictional violence from all-too-real terror, and the film exploits the audience’s predisposition. It is a viewing that is engrossing and undeniably entertaining, but at the same time will make you queasy.

The main character, Omar, is not depicted as a crazed madman. It would be easy to hate him if the movie did not portray him as such a sympathetic character; he is compassionate, friendly, a caring father and a loving husband, but also an aspiring suicide bomber. He is confused of course, but all of his problems with society stem from the same source as any other person in middle-class society in the first-world.

Omar appears to be a radical Muslim, but not a fundamentalist one. His wife behaves like a person with the same rights and abilities as her husband, is allowed to talk to other people and is even seen without a burqa on at one point.

If anything, Omar is a symbol of modernity and successful adaptation of Islamic society into Western culture. He is shown to have a steady job, a nice house and enough for the necessities of life.

The most apparent flaw that the film has is that it does not explore why these people want to blow themselves up, it is just a given that they do. They make prototypical videos (like The Joker in “The Dark Knight” without any of the bite) in which they state their reasons for why they are going to attack England, but they all seem to be reiterated talking points from a stereotypical extremist.

The other characters seem to be driven by a desire to adhere to Omar’s leadership and to appear to retain their bravado, but Omar’s motivation seems to be internal.

The film seems to be intent, however, without providing the answers. There is no clear moral or central theme that the story is trying to convey, obviously terrorism is bad but the film effectively satirizes all of the things associated with terrorism without trying to offend any of them.

But despite all of the underpinnings, “Four Lions” is at its core a comedy. It is at times shocking and difficult, and other times silly and ridiculous. The climax of the film is perhaps the best portrayal of physical comedy since “Abbott and Costello” or “The Three Stooges“, a sequence that will undoubtedly be viewed as iconic to film buffs for years to come.

“Four Lions” excels at making its audience feel uncomfortable, but it is nonetheless an entertaining and interesting dark comedy that will make you think.

It is currently on DVD and was put onto Netflix Instant-watch April 8.

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Four Lions: An explosive British comedy