A handful of young men set out to take on the decadent West but are more of a threat to themselves than anyone else in this black comedy from the creator of Brass Eye
, Chris Morris. Omar (Riz Ahmed) is a devout Muslim living in the United Kingdom who has decided to form a terrorist cell to bring forth a jihad against a culture he believes is dominated by the sinful and ignorant. However, Omar isn't much of leader, and he's assembled an unimpressive team of fellow terrorists, among them Waj (Kayvan Novak), who lacks the brainpower to come up with ideas or direction on his own; Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who is shy and doesn't have much to say; and Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a recent convert to Islam who tries to make up for his lack of practical knowledge with fierce passion. As Omar and his comrades debate both doctrine and methods, they ponder such notions as using birds as explosive devices, creating video communiqués with a hip-hop flavor, and attacking mosques in an effort to provoke non-violent Muslims. But are Omar and his partners a legitimate threat to the safety of Great Britain, or just four half-bright twenty-somethings with more bluster than imagination?
It really shouldn’t work. A black comedy that’s basically about four terrorists, planning an atrocity on UK soil? That’s surely a film that’s designed to wind up tabloid newspapers? In the wrong hands, it certainly could have been. But under the diligent stewardship of Chris Morris, Four Lions
emerges as one of the best films of the year.
It’s a perfectly pitched, at times rightly uncomfortable comedy, that brings together a quartet of inept terrorists, who when we meet them, can’t even put a video together without it falling into farce. It’s an opening scene that sets up Four Lions perfectly. And led by the terrific Riz Ahmed and the scene-stealing Nigel Lindsay, the company of actors rise to the challenge that Chris Morris sets them.
Four Lions isn’t a perfect film, though. The tone is a little uneven at times, and it’s very much one that’s going to feel more at home on a television than a cinema screen. But it’s still a daring, risky and at times extremely funny piece of work. And it’s one not afraid to pull the rug on you, either, never shielding itself away from the undercurrents of its subject matter. It’s the most ambitious comedy in a long, long time, and it’s credit to all concerned that it works as well as it does. --Simon Brew