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  Four Lions Killing With Confidence
Year: 2010
Director: Chris Morris
Stars: Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar, Preeya Kalidas, Julia Davis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Will Adamsdale, Wasim Zakir, William El Gardi, Alex McQueen, Darren Boyd, Kevin Eldon, Mohammad Aqil, Karl Seth, Craig Parkinson
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Omar (Riz Ahmed) is not getting on well with his friends. They are radicalised Muslims in Britain, and wish to fight back against the society they view as oppressing them, but how to go about that is something they are having problems with. The most radical of them is Barry (Nigel Lindsay), who has the zeal of the convert and wishes to accompany Omar, Waj (Kayvan Novak) and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) to a training camp in Pakistan, but precisely what they will be training for seems to be getting away from them. In the end, Omar gets the word from his uncle to join him there, but as with a lot of their plans, it does not go well...

There was some controversy about Four Lions on its release, mainly from those who had not seen it and thought that the film was making light of suicide bombers, but although many continued not to like it once they had seen it, they would be hard pressed to regard this as anything but serious. Director and co-writer Chris Morris was one of those comic creators who seemed to thrive on controversy anyway, but if he had set out to get a film about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists seen around the world, you had to admit that making it humorous was a novel way of provoking debate. Yet it was only funny up to a point.

What was ingenious about this was that for the most part, we liked these buffoons as they muddled their way towards some misguided sense of martyrdom; apart from Barry, they were not really bad people, they'd simply taken a wrong turn along the way. If this sounds like a woolly liberal outlook to adopt, it was hard to deny that didn't make up part of the way that the filmmakers saw their characters, but it did serve to humanise what were often depicted as cartoonish bogeymen in the popular press. On the other hand, the "four lions" do have their idiocy laid on a bit thick, which made out their fundamentalism to be less religious and more a moronic lack of understanding.

We never really got an impression of how such young men could turn to this lifestyle: there is no racism to be seen here from the white side except for Barry's insane anti-Semitism, where he can even blame his clapped out car breaking down on Jewish motor parts. Indeed, the non-Muslim characters were shown to be oblivious bumblers, uncomprehending of what exactly the fundamentalists have against them, and after watching this you'd be forgiven for being none the wiser either. The authorities are different in that they are trying to stop the would-be terrorists, but are not shown to be any better in their surveillance of the wrong people and barging into devout but non-violent Muslim homes in the hope of breaking up some kind of cell.

Whether that occurs often enough to turn British Asians against their country is debatable, but if there was one thing this did right it was place questions such as these in your mind. If it put anyone off suicide bombing or not was a different matter, but it could be Four Lions was more for outsiders looking in than the other way around, no matter how extensively researched this was before it was turned into a script. Many would be more concerned with how funny it was and not allow the deeper concerns to bother them too much, and it was true that it did have some highly amusing moments, with Morris's way with an insult as distinctive as ever, yet even as events turned darker others would be wondering where the line between hilarious and tragic was going to be drawn. The fact that this was well made, and sincere, even sorrowful, underneath the daftness, was to be commended, but how troubled were we meant to be by it? That answer was not made clear enough.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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