Brought to life by Chris Morris who directs and partially wrote the piece, “Four Lions” attempts to address the intricacies and ultimate brutality brought forth under the guise of religious jihads through satire. But what more can you expect from the man who brought us “The Day Today” and “Brass Eye”?
The movie orbits a small group of muslims living in Doncaster and plan on becoming suicide bombers. Unfortunately, when two of them, Omar (Riz Ahmed) and Waj (Kayvan Novak) play with the wrong end of a missile launcher in a Pakistani training camp, they return home and concoct a story that involves them and the other members of their group: Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a white Islam convert; Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who believes crowns are the best way to deliver the maximum amount of damage; and Hasaan (Arsher Ali), the newest member, going ahead with a plan to blow themselves up at the London Marathon.
With an obvious goal of illustrating the claustrophobic and conflicting Muslim community within the UK, most importantly how we see that they are not strict adherents of their own religious law. Yes they are culturally and religiously identifiable as such but they seek glory more than anything else, often arguing over who is “the most Al-Qaida of them all”. These ideas stand in strong juxtaposition to what the media portrays of such people in real-life, a less than subtle nod being given to the spin deployed by the police for their ineptness. Here are characters that, couldn’t arrange sex in a brothel, broadcasting almost every move they make and yet the police are always two moves behind. Hell, they can’t even tell a Wookie apart from a bear.
So that the growing paranoia towards the end of the movie increases, shots taken with night-vision goggles and CCTV are employed with increasing frequency, but the most effective and simplistic method used is the handheld camera, offering us a more personal insight into the characters themselves. This faux-documentary feel mirrors the same low-quality imagery we often see in such cases (albeit after the fact) yet with an effective subversion in place.
Conversely however, this low production value combined with the overall message of the piece that appears too subtle and underdeveloped for its own good, these factors can often make it feel better suited as a TV series. Morris was known for his no holds barred approach in the past but time has led to his acquiescence in some ways, watering down the power behind the imagery and ideas in place, ironic considering this is the same man who dedicated an episode of “Brass Eye” exclusively to satirizing pedophilia. Jokes fly fast and furiously, delivered with amazing pitch and clarity by the cast as a whole (though Ahmed and Novak are perhaps the two breakout stars of the piece, displaying an intuitive sense of comic timing) but it is not enough to force us to confront the issues at hand; it is admirable that they are not pushed too heavily, allowing the audience to think for itself, however overall it lacks a significant degree of gravitas.
Inevitably, in spite of the often alarming scenes we are confronted with, there is often no real weight attached to the meaning or discussion running parallel to them. Thus an above average comedy misses out on the one factor that would have turned “Four Lions” into a true classic.