Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Four Lions is a comedy, it is not a political film.  It does not try to be controversial for the sake of it, although its subject may be considered as such by many, as some of the press it has received indicates. On the other hand, Chris Morris was aware of the controversial nature of the script, and trod a careful path in its realization.

Four Lions is not defending, or attacking, terrorism. At least, not directly. It is much more effective than that, as it makes fun out of them, out of the whole war on terror farce. In doing so, it exposes the utter ridiculousness , ignorance and stupidity of not only so many would be bombers, but also of the security and political establishment  - one of its hilarious scenes is set in the charade of a meeting to fight terrorism, an incongruous well bred politician, probably Tory, utterly scared in the midst of his Muslim constituents.

The film tells the story of four lions, our heroes, are four young clueless British Muslin men, including a white convert, who decide to take action in defence of the Ummah, the community of brothers and sisters of Islam, to become soldiers of their faith. The problem, and the laughs, come from the fact that our cubs (rather than lions) are as bright as two planks. We just follow their misadventures rolling one after the other as they attempt to carry out a suicide bombing. If lions are like these lost souls, no wonder that they are near extinction.

The film is also a parody of recent American studio produced blockbusters treading on a similar line, with its beautifully produced shots of charismatic heroes flying unscathed in the air whilst exploding cars miraculously do not touch a single hair out of place, the baddies portrayed as possessing sophisticated weaponry while the forces of law and order excel in their duties. None of this is found in Four Lions: what we got here is a would be terrorist crow being blown by the bomb strapped to it, whilst one of the would be mumbling bombers had to be picked up in bits in a black bin liner after blowing himself up, and a sheep, as he lost his way in a field, his head falling later from a tree onto the path of an unsuspecting man walking his dog. We witness the absurd situation of the imam who refuses to walk into a room because there is a woman in it, even more, a woman who answers back. The utter predictability and boredom of suburbia and terrorism has indeed comic potential.

We are indeed into a home grown version of the territory exposed by films, and books, such as The Men Who Stare at Goats, although I would call it in this case as The Jihadist Crows. We see the presumably MI5 agent pretending that the container  where both him and his prisoner are is Egyptian territory, a container located in the middle of an industrial warehouse somewhere in an industrial estate as he interrogates, and threatens, his Muslim suspect, who actually opposes violence, with the horrors of the tortures waiting for him in the hands of the barbarian Egyptian hordes waiting outside. A suspect brought in after a bungled raid carried out by a clueless police in a suspected house, when the actual would be bombers where to be found next door.

Hopefully, if all Islamic extremists are as inept as our four lions are, the possibilities of an effective terrorist attack in Britain are not as great as politicians have made us to believe. However, these hopes are dashed if the police is as inept as depicted in this film. I am sure that some readers will raise an eyebrow on the wisdom of such a statement. Well, let them be, although I would just remind them that we are inhabiting a land populated by people who stare at goats, or those who train crows to be bombers.  Not mentioning the soldier of Islam who accidentally blows up Osama Bin Laden in a training camp in mountainous Pakistan as he is not able to distinguish his arse from his elbow, or the back from the front of a RPG, as he tries to shoot down an American drone plane, or the police markman who cannot distinguish a bear.

In fact, no one comes out well in this film, not even us, the audience, as we laugh our heads off as we see completely incompetent terrorists blowing themselves up, or totally clueless police officers shooting at the wrong man. To those people who object to suicide bombers becoming the subject of a comedy, I say that this is precisely the kind of issue that we need to make fun of, to expose the ridiculousness and stupidity of their actions.

Four Lions is not a flawless film, its rhythm tends to plod on between the gags, and the rawness of a limited resourced home grown production is very much in evidence. The actors are brilliant in conveying the earthiness, language and nuances of working class British Muslim lives in suburbia, down to the depiction of a rapping terrorist.

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