Four Lions Reviews
Don't get me wrong, 'Four Lions' had me laughing at some of it's jokes, but the serious turns its took at the end felt unneeded and quite frankly, desperate, trying to get a reaction from the audience as the main character martyr themselves, main characters that throughout the film I felt no empathy for, so why should I care?
'Four Lions' had what it needed to be good, a new innovative premise and the cast to do it, what it came up with was a cheap anything for laughs (oh wait we're serious now but no we're not?), uneven mess.
The comparison between Morris and Cook is not mere hyperbole. For all their reputations as rebels, and occasionally uncouth ones, there is a sparkling intelligence running throughout their work, so that even at their weakest they always feel on a different plane to everybody else. From the "good AIDS/ bad AIDS" conversations in Brass Eye to the darker moments of The Day Today, Morris has continually caught audiences between wincing and laughing hysterically, between revelling in the absurdity of life and being openly shaken by reality.
But despite this rich pedigree, there is no sense in Four Lions of Morris re-treading old ground, in the tradition of TV performers who translate to the big screen. The only vague character similarity comes in Omar's security guard friend; his opening monologue about marathons and running distances is a distant cousin of Steve Coogan's pool attendant in The Day Today, who insists after an accident that, year after year, "no-one died". Neither is it the case that Four Lions feels televisual; Morris' comedy has never felt constricted by the limits of a given medium, and he makes the transition to cinema pretty effortlessly.
Being a British comedy, there are moments in Four Lions which feature or heavily rely on big, broad sight gags. These are the kinds of laughs which populate the trailers, since they are perceived by marketers as bringing in a mainstream audience who do not follow either politics or Morris' career so closely. That's not to say that Morris put them in specifically to sell the film; while they don't reach the heights of the satirical and verbal comedy, they are executed in the best possible way. There is quite a bit of pleasure to be had from watching someone firing a grenade launcher the wrong way, or blowing up crows, or running awkwardly with hydrogen peroxide stashed under their arms.
Had the use of such gags been more prolific, you could easily accuse Four Lions of exploiting its subject matter, barely scratching the surface in search of a cheap, mean-spirited laugh. But as the film moves on, all suggestions or hints of Carry on Bombing go out the window, as we grow in our relationship with the characters and view their actions in a more serious or pathos-ridden light.
A key indicator of this is the sight of one of the bombers running towards the house with the explosives - he successfully mounts a wall, only to trip over a sheep and explodes before our very eyes. Whereas in previous scenes this would have induced a belly laugh, instead we sit there in shock, not quite believing what we have just seen. Morris has the confidence to keep the boundary between comedy and tragedy completely blurred; he doesn't feel the need to constantly get a laugh if a laugh is not what is needed at a given moment.
Four Lions is an unusual comedy insofar as laughter or hilarity is not always the natural reaction which it produces. It sits in the company of Kind Hearts and Coronets or Dr. Strangelove, in which the overwhelming desire to laugh at the absurd or outrageous situations is balanced by an extraordinary sense of sadness or fear towards the characters. The final act of Four Lions, in which the four men decide to bomb the London Marathon, is up there with Charlie Chaplin's work in The Kid, or Buster Keaton at his most melancholic. Rather than lurch between laughing and lecturing, Morris invites us to recognise the sad and pitiful absurdity of what these four men are doing. While the four are all in some way stupid, disorganised and conflicted men, the film does not belittle them; it humanises them, allowing us to weep for their fate while laughing scornfully at the ideas which drove them to said fate.
This marriage of tragedy and comedy is indicative of Morris' intentions as a comedian. Despite his uncanny ability to make people laugh, Morris has always had some form of serious intention behind his work, whether it's questioning stereotypes or approaching a controversial subject in a manner which cuts through all the hysteria and hyperbole of modern media. With Four Lions he has created a comedy which generates huge laughs in places while also raising all the difficult questions about the origins of terrorism in Britain, and if and how it can be combatted.
The film is particularly strong at showing the impact of jihadist beliefs on the families of those engaged in terrorism. It cuts through all the nonsense of terrorists being portrayed as psychopathic loners, showing Omar (Riz Ahmed) as a family man attempting to reconcile his religious beliefs with his responsibilities as a husband and father. In one poignant moment, he tells his young son a bedtime story, explaining the principles of Islamic jihad in relation to The Lion King. In another equally sad scene, he poses as a hospital porter to get past police and say goodbye to his wife during her shift on reception. He says that he'll "be going now" and she glances back at him, tearful yet loyal to the last.
Four Lions also shows the flawed, or at least unsympathetic, position of moderate Muslims, arguing that they are as potentially damaging to the public image of Islam as the suicide bombers. One of Omar's friends adheres very strictly to the teachings of the Qu'ran, to the point where he comes across as distant, arrogant and pious. While Omar does everything with his wife and doesn't force her to cover up, his friend refuses to stand in the same room as a woman; when questioning about keeping women in a cupboard during prayer meetings, he replies: "it was not a cupboard, it was a small room." At this point Omar and his wife respond by chasing him out of their house with water pistols, with Omar's wife declaring sarcastically that she is "out of control". It's a smart and funny way of showing the nuances of Islamic attitudes to women, which have all too often been reduced to simple-minded caricature.
This scene leads onto one of the great set-piece gags in Four Lions (although gag is perhaps not the best way to describe it). At one point the four bombers meet at the house and discuss bombing the London Marathon. The camera keeps cutting between their conversations and the police pulling up outside a house, shot in night vision. This editing leads us to think that the bombers are going to be ambushed - only for the police to break into the 'study group' of the moderates, arresting the men and taking the women out of the 'cupboard'. Morris throws us a totally welcome curveball, and offers a memorable pay-off involving a freight container doubling for Egyptian soil and Weetabix being used as a bargaining chip.
What makes Four Lions work as a study or satire of fundamentalism is that it doesn't claim to have all the answers for exactly why young people are doing this. Morris spent the best part of six years researching the film, and clearly understands that there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to any aspect of this phenomenon. The film is concerned as much with exposing the hypocrisy of radical Islam as it is deflating the helpless, squirming responses of MPs and other authority figures. In putting every party, political or otherwise, under the spotlight, Morris is exposing and shaming the tendency to oversimplify the issues for the sake of sound-bites, or the cowardly approach taken by groups and politicians to avoid the issue altogether.
Four Lions is a great black comedy which indicates that Chris Morris can be as good a film director as he is when working in TV or radio. It isn't quite perfect, relying a little too often on broad comedy in its first act, and there is the outside possibility that audiences will come away feeling that, in terms of pure laughs, they didn't get their money's worth. Make no mistake, Four Lions is an often hilarious film, but it is more than funny - it hits the rich seam of awkward or edgy comedy which leaves one feeling shaken as well as stirred. In short, it is an all-round triumph from one of Britain's greatest comedy talents.
SO STUPID ITS FUNNY and so funny in a stupid way. From the beginning it all looks serious, till they speak that is. You could say its a dodgy film... but its not. Pay attention because every line is dynamite.
I guess for me this flick surprised me. I never heard of "Four Lions", never seen a trailer... nothing, so deciding to watch this was no screamer I just wanted to see the beginning to see if this was watchable... next minute I saw the whole thing.
May be a tad sensitive for those who may take this personally or it may bring the house down with laughter. A laughable sit with some dramatic situations that puts your thoughts to the test.
Nothing is sacred here, from the Pakistani living in England to an angry Englishman, they all want their 15 minutes of fame, each recording their terrorist tapes, claiming responsibility for some action that the cell is too bumbling to carry off.
The Englishman wants to blow up a mosque, reasoning that such an action will incite the remaining Muslims to join in the jihad. There's a gleeful look in his eye as he proclaims the end of days and revels in the thought of the great final battle in which Islam will be victorious. Of course the leader of the cell, who has ties to Pakistan, informs him that if the mosque is blown up, there will be far fewer Muslims available to fight. Later the Englishman records his glory tape, taking credit for the upcoming Mosque bombing, in the name of some bogus Islamic Jihadic organization (think the Christian Leftest Front from Life of Brian) - totally ignoring the fact that if he wanted to enlist more Muslims, he shouldn't be claiming that the bombing came from a Muslim group.
There are some truly hilarious scenes here - for example, the Pakistani gets called back to Pakistan by an uncle to receive "terrorist training". He takes his best friend, and once in Pakistan they boast to one another that they will kill each other in the name of the cause. Further, once entrenched at the "secret training facility", they use their cell phones to take a video of themselves decked out as terrorists (including the requisite shooting of machine guns into the sky) - the transmission of the cell phone is traceable and soon, while the leaders are having a secret meeting on the other side of the valley, the base is attacked by a US drone. Our heroes get a rocket launcher and intend to take out the drone, but point the wrong end - sending the rocket backwards and into the other side of the valley where the leaders were having their pow-wow. Check out the ending credits for a very funny bit showing the US news report on the incident.
Furthering the Monty Python theme, there is a scene requiring the foursome to walk/run in a bizarre crouch, holding bags of explosives in front of them (think the Ministry of Funny Walks), plus several goofy scenes of things blowing up that also harken back to The Flying Circus days.
Finally, there is an off the charts scene where one of the foursome is encouraged to climb over a wall while holding explosives - there is a group of grazing sheep on the other side, so when the "terrorist" fall over the wall he manages to blow himself and a couple of sheep to smithereens. The remaining three cell members then argue whether the fallen comrade should be considered a martyr for sacrificing himself even though he didn't really advance the cause. They finally rationalize that by killing a sheep, they were negatively impacting the food chain, hence their fallen friend would be rushed to heaven and given the virgins he deserves as a martyr for the cause.
Of course not all the jokes work, and the zaniness and stupidity of the four lions does wear a bit thin - but all in all, as a piece of indy type satire, this film is quite enjoyable.
Omar: What we gonna blow up Waj?
It is films like these that I want to instantly share with people. Four Lions is such a funny, dark, and offbeat satire that it deserves to be seen by more people, especially those wanting to be treated by something original, even if it treads along a seemingly non-funny premise. To pitch this as high concept to those unfamiliar: Four Lions is what would happen if you crossed The Three Stooges with the subject of radical Muslim suicide bombers, and then filmed the material as if it was This is Spinal Tap. You may have done a double take after seeing the phrase "radical Muslim suicide bombers," but I can assure you, this film is a hilarious and wickedly satirical take on could be easily seen as a controversial topic.
Four Lions tells the story of a group of British jihadists who push their abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point.
I was delighted to have stumbled upon Four Lions. This fast paced comedy / drama is quite controversial in that it mixes the serious subject matter of a sleeper cell of suicide bomber terrorists with dialogue that sounds like it has come straight out of any episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. It is hilarious and silly but somehow it never once escapes reality so that we actually believe such bungling, misguided people like this might actually exist. It also portrays the jihadist as a human being with flaws, which is something some people simply might not want to contemplate, given the stereotypes that exist in the Fox News world. Each wacky scenario that is portrayed could actually happen, making this satire highly engaging (in a Slapshot fashion) and allowing us to feel for the characters. The violent ending leaves us wondering exactly what we were laughing at and why were we laughing at it. Four Lions is one of the most thought provoking films I have ever seen.