Four Lions (2010)

February 23, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

No subject is safe from comedic scrutinization. Charlie Chaplin ridiculed Adolf Hitler and Nazism with the Great Dictator in 1940, Stanley Kubrick satirized the nuclear scare with Dr. Strangelove in 1964, and newcomer Chris Morris takes on the subject of Jihadi terrorists in 2010. Four Lions is a remarkable film that boasts merciless comedy, but also earns emotional attachment from the audience. Morris doesn’t know the meaning of taboo, as his only target is the throat.

Omar, played by Riz Ahmed, is the leader of the young Muslim men that are training themselves to become suicide bombers. Making up the rest of the inept team of men are Waj, Barry, Fessal, and Hassan. They try numerous ways to prepare themselves and most are idiotic, such as training crows to be bombers. The five actors that play the bumbling idiots are perfect in their respective roles. They sell their devotion to become martyrs very well, and they are naturally hilarious because they are oblivious to all the ridiculous things they say and do.

Morris does not depict the ideal feared assassins that we’ve made terrorists out to be, but he dilutes the horror of suicide bombers to a darkly comedic instructional film of how not to be a martyr. The humor is hard-hitting, drawing genuine laughs and also sympathy because of the characters’ devotion to an immoral cause. Omar and his crew are likable, humorous characters, and it hurts to see them go down a fast path to a short go-around. We see Omar live a comfortable life with his wife and young son, and we dread where his martyr dreams will eventually lead him. During one scene, Omar tells an amended version of  the Lion King, called Simba’s Jihad to his son; although it is comical, the scene is also simultaneously touching and uncomfortable, reflecting the film as a whole.

The film is shot documentary style with hand-held cameras, giving the film another layer of authenticity that’s essential for the comedy to hit harder. There are also a few scenes of viral video where the wannabe martyrs are fumbling over their lines and arguing over their appearance, adding a dash of variety within the documentary style. Everything in the film is viewed from a voyeuristic point, making all the jokes hit in layers because they are set in reality.

Four Lions is a bold film that exposes its audience to the comedic side of suicide bombers in an oddly accessible way. The film cleverly makes fun of something we fear, causing us to comfortably laugh in its face, at least until the credits roll.

Potential Drawbacks:

Any film turning a deadly serious matter into a laughing matter will disturb or even flat-out disgust viewers. The boldness of the film will deter some people, but that’s a sacrifice the film is more than willing to take.

One need not be politic-savvy or an expert in the history of Jihadi terrorists, but some may still believe that they have to be, or at least take an interest in the subject, to watch this film.

Another potential road block may be the accents, as I have heard many complaints about how not all the dialogue may be heard clearly. The accents are not thick enough to drown in, but may frustrate a few. Subtitles are nice.

Film Recommendations:

Wag the Dog
Paradise Now
In Bruges

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