Recommended Viewing Situation:
In a rubber dingy, waiting for spiritual salvation.
Running Time: 97 minutes.
Format: Digital Sony Cine Alta HDW-F900.
Director: Chris Morris.
Writer: Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain.
Cinematographer: Lol Crawley.
It is this writer’s opinion that Chris Morris can do no wrong. The man is a genius, a high water mark of black comedy; untouched by most, he produces satire so sharp and visceral it makes you reel in pain when you laugh. Ranging from Brass-Eye (1997-2001) to Jam (2000), the man is a British comedy institution. So when he writes and directs a full-length movie of his own, you know something special is going to happen. Sit down, take a breath and prepare for Four Lions (2010), one of the darkest and funniest things to ever be put on the silver screen.
The film follows Omar (Riz Ahmed), Waj (Kayvan Novak), Barry (Nigel Lindsey), and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) a group of radicalised young British Muslim men whose only purpose in life are to become a team of jihad suicide bombers. Oh yes. A film about homegrown terrorists from Sheffield, anybody feeling like this is too close to the mark? No? Good, because the film only gets better from there. All the performances are superb; Morris really summons the best from his actors. As a result, there are a whole host of memorable lines ranging from the flat out silly to the completely deadpan witty. Look out for the ‘let’s bomb the mosque’ and the ‘Jewish sparkplug’ discussions. The narrative unfolds in ways you don’t quite expect, and as the gags progress in intensity so does an odd feeling of distress as you realise you are in fact quite engaged in these characters. Understandably, this humour is not for all, but it still can be appreciated.
Morris and his band of merry men do an oddly charming and mystifying job of humanising all the roles in Four Lions (this process is all building up to the final laugh that is simply hysterical). This is the first key to appreciating Morris’s humour, although bleak it certainly resonates on a very human level . Now for all the joking around, the film is, like any good comedy, incredibly clever; it draws attention to a number of issues prevalent in Western society, particularly that of Britain post 9/11 and the general state of religion in the modern world. Four Lions lays bare the inanity of religious doctrine, contesting its sexism towards women, its oppressive nature on the youth of today and its ever fragile piety that encapsulates its devoutest followers. What’s really clever is that all of these complex issues are explored in one scene involving a water pistol fight. This kind of adamant farce is Morris’s comedic signature and the final key to understanding his humour. He is fiercely silly and deeply moving, perhaps resonant of the Pythons uncanny ways, but with more middle finger. Don’t forget to look out for Benedict Cumberbatch’s cameo as the foolish police officer and to please stop reading now; go and enjoy the film.