I must plead
ignorance of the earlier output of British director Christopher
Morris. It should be noted that the writers from the quirky TV shows
Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look, Sam Bain
and Jesse Armstrong, contributed to this farce about fantasists.
What we get is a
supposed glimpse into a would-be terror cell in London who have
ambitions ranging from blowing up something small, to starting a
global Muslim-Christian conflict “by blowing up a mosque”—you can
start to sense the direction of the film and its humour.
Omar (the very
intense Riz Ahmed) is married with a son and like most of the guys
in his group, in his 20s or 30s. He is the leader and aspires to go
on training camp in Pakistan. He is often challenged by the
Caucasian convert and older member Barry (Nigel Lindsay) to be more
extreme and ambitious.
traces the haphazard build-up to the group’s eventual attack on a
marathon in London. There are many gags along the way which got the
cinema laughing. What works really well is the realisation that
extreme ideas can dwell in normal people, with tragicomic results.
Morris says he
researched the film for three years and came across reports from
many sources about live in a terror cell. There seem to be
archetypal members, like one who takes orthodoxy too far and another
whose motivation is unclear or confused. The dénouement of the film
is perhaps the most chilling because what has been a rollicking
laugh quite quickly yet credibly transforms into a risk to
The exposé that
there really is no such thing as Terror but merely people who behave
certain ways is also insightful. Phrases like War on Terror crumble
ineptly in the face of a determined individual or group. It was also
a message of the film that true Muslims who believe to the
letter, like Omar’s brother, would never contemplate killing
others. It is a bastardisation of faith that so often leads to
The camerawork and
editing are very fitting to the action, especially in the final
sequence. While largely entertaining and insightful, this shtick is
not new. In fact, one of my favourite animated series, Monkey
Dust, featured just such a cell (more info,
I think Four Lions is fun and will be enjoyed by most people
who go see it.