Four Lions - Blu-ray Review

'scary, haunting and poignant... a late entry for this site's film of the year'

In a way, Chris Morris' directorial debut is every critics worst nightmare because, with Four Lions, the Brass Eye writer might just have created a new genre. The script, sure, is pure black comedy, all tongue-in-cheek jokes about bombs, martyrdom ('is he a martyr or is he a jalfrezi?') and extremism. The plot though is heavyweight drama in a way that marks Four Lions out as being above and beyond your average comedy-drama. Way beyond.

As leader Omar (Riz Ahmed) attempts to get his small band of extremists ready for a suicide bomb attack, questions are raised on what the point of it all is, on what the target should be and on the 'damage' people can do to one another. At times, it's definitively existential. The drama might be played out through comedic foils but this is deadly serious stuff and Morris knows it. Poignant moments with Omar's son highlight the true nature of Four Lions but it's in the core group's interactions that Morris' brilliantly casual but equally viciously deep observations can really be seen. Witness Barry (Nigel Lindsay) getting himself into a catch-22 by trying to argue that the best target for the attack is a Mosque as it will incite more Muslims to violence. Only, as one of the group points out, not if they'll all dead.

Questions on a similar tone and nature continue throughout; is it really productive for Waj (Kayvan Novak) to blow himself up if he doesn't really want to? Will he truly be a martyr if he only does it because he has to? Perhaps on face value these seem the wrong sort of questions to be asking after terrorist atrocities in so many countries have killed so many but they're absolutely not; they're vital and through them Morris analyses how the Western world sees Muslims and how Muslims might see themselves. The writer/director is also on to the idea of 'old' questions, the questions that led us down the path to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he holds little back in showing where those questions lead us and specifically, where they lead the forces intending to protect us.

Morris is helped markedly by his wonderfully game cast, each of whom bring something exciting to the screen. Obvious praise targets are Lindsay and Ahmed but Novak and Adeel Akhtar are the real standouts here. Novak's Waj is the idiot of the group, constantly struggling to string together a sentence, let alone make an informed decision on whether to bring about a Jihad or not. It's a role that could all too easily go unnoticed but the care and craft it takes to transform yourself from intelligent actor to clueless suicide bomber shouldn't be underestimated. Equally, Akhtar, as the luckless Fessal, undergoes a similar transformation but his is an altogether much quieter, more subtle, take on the idiot with a bomb or, as one character brands him, the 'special needs donkey'.

It's fine to talk about Four Lions as a comedy but to do so is almost to miss the point. It might be funny sure, but here, laughter is almost a defence mechanism, a comfort blanket, against the horror show that plays out before your eyes. It's arguably the most sharply observed drama I've seen this year, possibly for a number of years; by turns scary, haunting and poignant, with a killer end that left me as breathless as any CGI-fest ever has. A late entry for this site's film of the year.

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'Four Lions isn't out to "make fun of terrorists" or belittle orthodox Muslims, it's there to point out the hypocrisies in everyone, from wannabe terrorists to government officials to ordinary citizens, and it makes its statement boldly and without compromise' - Film Forager, 4/5


  1. Excellent movie, which also will probably be in my top 10 of the year.

  2. Glad to hear it! Yeah, I loved it. Am still thinking about it now a number of days after watching - sure sign of a great film.

  3. Man, this film has been getting a bunch of end-of-the-year love. I NEED to check it out. Thanks for the added persuasion.

  4. No problem Hal, hope you enjoy it - I certainly did!