Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Four Lions

Lowdown: A group of four utterly useless Muslim Brits plans their act of terror.
The people committing some of the worst terrorist acts in the USA and the UK were people that lived in those countries for significant durations. In particular, those responsible for the 2005 London suicide bombing attacks on public transport were proper Brits, born there and all. So where did those Brits truly come from? What were their lives like? Four Lions attempts to provide an answer to this question, but it does so in a unique way. You see, Four Lions is a comedy. It’s a black comedy that takes us into a parallel universe and provides its own background explanations for those London terrorists. It goes to such extreme ridicule with its explanations that I found myself simultaneously laughing off at the comedy while being unable to avoid noticing just how real and authentic the message behind the laughter is.
Perhaps the best indicator of what you can expect out of Four Lions comes from the fact the film was directed by Christopher Morris, of The IT Crowd fame. We follow a group of Muslims Brits, some of them equipped with a beard and some quite indistinguishable from the British stereotype other than their skin tone. That group has one thing on its mind, and that is the need to show the rest of the world that Islam will not be subdued; the problem is, they don’t really have a mind. It’s hard to imagine a group of people more lacklustre than these are, yet – through the deficiencies of those around them and of the authorities – our group finds itself at Pakistani terrorist training camps and on its own way towards its own act of terrorism. That is, if they can decide who they want to blow.
There are jokes aplenty. The classic example is the video the group is making in the classic manner where the suicide bomber gives the post bombing world his two cents. Only that the gun the would be suicide bomber is holding is a small kids’ AK-47 like toy. However, in between the silly jokes there is some serious stuff hiding. For example, when Four Lions’ protagonists argue their car’s sparkplugs are Jewish you know they’re dumb, but you’re also made to think about the anti-Semitism that is rampant with Muslim groups to very worrying levels. Without giving away too many spoilers, I found Four Lions excelling in this department of satire that touches on reality, and on the reality of the 2005 bombings, to unprecedented levels. By the same token I thought it went too far with the silly jokes, as in going past the point after which more silly is just pure silly. I guess that equilibrium is too delicate and too personal for the film to accurately hit home with every viewer.
Personally, I found the characters around our nutty group to be the most interesting. The general British public, as it is portrayed in the film, is simply unable to fathom what it is that is going on in our group’s heads, where they’re coming from etc – the exact questions Four Lions is trying to answer. In particular there is the otherwise normal looking family of one of the would be terrorists, the wife and the child that know what the husband is planning and yet – despite their seemingly sane and normal appearance – do nothing to stop him. If that was the family of a real would be terrorist I would be quite worried; given the fact some of the 2005 bombers came from similarly normal looking families, I am quite worried.
Best scene: There are many good terrorism jokes to pick on with Four Lions, including the likes of suicide crows. The one that made me laugh the most was when the would be terrorists kept shaking their heads while outdoors in order to prevent clear photos of their faces from being taken.
Technical assessment: Four Lions is made to feel like a bit of a reality show, hand held camera and all, and it shows on the poor picture and the way too loud dialog of this DVD. You won’t be demoing you home theater with this one.
Overall: Not the best film ever, but one has to praise the original approach. 3.5 out of 5 stars for a film that should leave you thinking long after you’ve stopped watching it.

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