At what point is it possible to find something funny in something tragic? There is a mysterious number somewhere in the vast universe that dictates when we as an audience can finally look at a horrible event or group of people in our history and laugh at it. It is only the greatest satirists in the world that have mastered this mystifying timeline and, after watching the film Four Lions, it is obvious that Chris Morris qualifies.
Morris’ debut film is a comedy about the loveable bunch known as Islamic suicide bombers. Five British-Pakistani men are trying to do right in the eyes of their God by killing themselves with an explosive whilst in a populated area. The only problem is that the collective IQ of the group hovers somewhere between the square root of pi and Verne Troyer’s shoe size. There’s Waj (Kayvan Novak), a man so dumb he has to photograph himself to determine whether or not he is confused; Barry (Nigel Lindsay), who thinks the best way to send a message to Al Qaeda’s enemies is by bombing a mosque; Hassan (Arsher Ali), who delivers his terrorist message in rap lyrics; and Fessal (Adeel Akhtar), who wears a box over his head while on video because he doesn’t want to “show an image.” Leading the pack is Omar (Riz Ahmed), the Moe in charge of his group of stooges, who just wants to do right by his wife and son. Together they try and figure out the perfect location to spread their message, but whether it’s God or fate, something seems to be standing in their way.
As great as the performances were, what truly makes this movie magnificent is its script. Written by Morris as well as Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and Simon Blackwell, hardly a minute goes by when you aren’t risking suffocation from laughing so much. More than just the characters, who are simply brilliant, it’s the situations in which the group finds themselves that are a real scream. The scenes where Omar is talking with his family, be it putting his son to bed with his own special version of the Lion King or expressing to his wife how upset he is with the mission’s progress, are genius, playing on every sappy drama about “keeping the family together” that has come out over the last hundred years. And while I can’t divulge too many details without providing spoilers, I want you to imagine four terrorists running around the streets of London as an upside-down clown, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, an ostrich rider and a honey monster.
But satire doesn’t exist just to make you laugh; it’s also there to make you think and Morris doesn’t hold back in this department and is an equal opportunity offender. As bad as the Islamic characters in this film are presented, the British police come off just as bad, more often than not making truly horrendous mistakes in their efforts to apprehend the terror suspects. Commenting on racial profiling and rendition techniques, the film’s main focus may be the five mujahideen, but security forces get their fair share of criticism.
Four Lions is easily one of the funniest movies that I have ever seen. After the amount of pain that our country and other countries around the world suffered as a result of these radicals, it would be a crime for this film not to find distribution. As outrageous the subject is, not a single person walked out of the screening and every joke was followed with uproarious laughter. On more than one occasion I found myself just laughing, not at the scene, but just thinking back to everything else that had happened in the movie. If, by some misfortune, this film doesn’t get more exposure stateside, I would recommend flying to England, locating Chris Morris’ home and begging him for a screening. It would be worth every penny.
For more coverage from the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival click here.