Title: Four Lions
Genre: Black Comedy
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay
Director: Christopher Morris
I hate repeating myself, and when random files decide to become irreparably corrupt and important work goes missing, I'm faced with the option to either rewrite what was already written or let it fade from memory. This time I'm doing things a little different; this is a film that ought to be better known and it would be tragic if nothing was said on the matter, and so I invite you to read my first ever Speed Review. Timed by my clock to be written in the space of no more than half an hour, I will boldly adventure into the land of grammatical mistakes, passages that I'll despise in a few days time and bold metaphors that will in all likeliness make very little sense. It is this bold challenge that I undertake in order to represent an even bolder film; for it wasn't only Richard Ayoade of “The IT Crowd” that decided to take up directing with the actor playing Denholm Reynholm (the Boss from the first season), as well as having the likes of “Brass Eye” and numerous comedic shows on Radio 4 under his belt but now this man has decided to tackle a subject that for years has been considered nigh on untouchable.
Where Islamophobia still runs rampant on the streets; fear of bombings and the shock waves of the 9/11 tragedy can still be felt, and where any anti-Islamic sentiment ranges from “not politically correct” to outright racism, this man laughs in the face of adversity as he brings to us the tragic tale of five jihadists hell bent on 'blowing something up innit.' Now a major concern going into the film is how 'brit-centric' it would be; set in London and following characters who are all British born Muslims – one extremist is even a convert – it would be very easy to make religious jokes and centre the comedy on rather more British themes, alienating much of the audience, but this never really happens. Instead it takes something of a more realistic view; that for every stereotypical criminal mastermind there must be the moronic antithesis (especially if the masterminds die at the end of their plan) and these brave soldiers rank upon the most idiotic of them all.
From possibly the most easily suggestible and idiotic of the bunch, Waj, who still learns of the Qur'an from a book entitled “The Cat Who Went to Mecca,” to the most radically violent of them all, who thinks the best target for them to attack would be their local mosque; they all have their own different ideas on how best to martyr themselves and make their names go down in history, but it is only the unoffical ringleader of this band of hapless heroes, Omar, who manages to organise and direct their efforts. More than just the straight man to those that surround him, he acts as the voice of reason and the consciousness for the collective; it is through his drive that anything really gets done at all, and its all he can do to keep them out of trouble for long enough to not get caught prematurely. But by the time the third act begins to dawn, everything begins to take a slightly more serious turn and of them all, it is his lone intelligent voice that becomes the most frightening.
As we witness his life outside of the extremist group we see what he is leaving behind; a stable job as a security guard and a loving wife and young child, both of whom he speaks of his intentions openly with and the manner they believe in his actions, supporting him as though he is acting somehow in their best interests, it hammers home the gravity of their situation. The others can be almost forgiven as we learn in their simple minded childlike innocence how they seem to have succumbed to peer pressure and don't truly understand the reasons for carrying out their extremist actions, and as the film draws to a close, what we have learnt of the characters thus far continues on to its inevitable tragic conclusion. There may be nothing prophetic or revelationary contained here but neither it is quite as simple as it all may seem at the outset, and by treading along the knife edge of a risky subject and still managing to often find humour in the situation without directly targeting religion, he is doing nothing but inviting others to follow suit. This film manages to play with fire and still succeeds in not getting itself burnt.