Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Four Lions

Chris Morris has never been one to avoid controversy if he can help it. His superlative Brass Eye series was a deft and stunningly unrestrained satire of sensationalist news media, replete with the "Paedogeddon" special (Featuring a before-he-was-famous Simon Pegg, and co-written by a before-he-was-famous Charlie Brooker, funnily enough) which famously was described by one tabloid as "sick" while, on the page opposite, they cooed over a 15-year old Charlotte Church's breasts. Here again, he takes a hilarious look at an issue a lot of people find very serious; terrorism.

Following a small, northern England-based terrorist cell, Four Lions explores their incessant bungling in the leadup to their planned terrorist attack. The cell themselves are an insular group of idiots and psychotics, far removed from mainstream Islam, including the clearly-trying-too-hard British convert Barry, the idiotic Waz and the overly impressionable Hassan. Leader Omar, played by Riz Ahmed, is the closes thing to the only sane man, but even he is a dimwit who is willing to die for...what exactly? He is shown in his interactions with his far more devout brother to not take scripture seriously, or even understand it. He claims to be railing against western imperialism, but embraces western living and popular culture over his native lifestyle time and time again (The characters repeatedly compare themselves to Rambo and prefer Toploader's Dancing In The Moonlight to Muslim music.) These are not fundamentalists; these are impressionable idiots looking for a cause. Ultimately, this seems to be the message at the centre of Four Lions; that anyone who'd kill people in the name of a religion that largely espouses peace is an ignorant moron.

Of course, in spite of all the statement of it all, it's easy to forget when looking back that this was also the funniest comedy anyone made last year. Early on, especially, there was rarely a scene I wasn't doubled over with laughter. The script, courtesy of Morris and the writing team of Peep Show, is pitch-perfect, and all the actors in the comedic roles make every line work beautifully. However, what's most impressive is the two sides to the tale; the characters who aren't there for comedy but for drama never feel like dead weight, instead providing their own side to the story, and when the comedy does die away to give way for the drama, it's very effective.

So, if you want a side-splitting comedy and a thoughtful meditation on terrorism...you're officially in a weird mood, but either way, this film is both of these things and more. Utterly hilarious, very thought-provoking, and well worth watching.

PS. Of course, something of note is that in the UK, this film wasn't that controversial. Fun little values dissonance fact to any Americans reading; the British don't care that much about terrorism. We had our first major blow against us a long time ago, so we're used to the idea that we're not invincible. That's why we could make this happen. Have fun following this act.

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