Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Four Lions

I was going to make a joke about films bombing, but then I thought that might be in bad taste so instead I'm going to review Four Lions (trailer), the Chris Morris black comedy about a cell of Islamic terrorists whose plans to commit a suicide bombing go hilariously awry.

It's very good.

As a fan of writer and director Chris Morris I expected it to be funny and full of bleak juxtapositions, what I hadn't expected Four Lions so strangely moving at times.

Four Lions beautifully seduces you into the world of the buddy movie, with glorious moments of fun and mundanity like that pictured, when the cell are on the way to commit their ultimate outrage, and joyously sing-a-long to 'Dancing in the moonlight' on the radio. It serves to undermine the idea that terrorists are inhuman, remorseless fiends that have society at their mercy.

But these moments can be shockingly cut short by death, or horror or rage. Or plain stupidity. These are not comic ra-ra-radicals, like Woolfie in Citizen Smith, they intend to really commit murder, and act accordingly. The genius lies in allowing the characters to glimpse their own contradictions, and then carry on regardless.

Morris has described it as the Dad's Army of terrorism, and I think that description fits very well. When their car breaks down it gets blamed on the 'fact' that "Jews invented spark plugs" but the looks of self doubt are enough to give the game away.

One of the great things about this film is that it is a comedy not a thesis on Islamic terrorism. It does not tell you what to think which may come across as amoral or confused to some but I think it comes from the real respect Morris has for his audience.

If you've not seen Four Lions yet, do go, but don't expect it to reinforce your comfort zones. For me the best parts of the films were those that left you unsettled, like when one cell member tells another that he thinks that maybe what they are doing is wrong "but perhaps I'm just confused" or the extraordinary, disturbing ending which leaves you oddly uplifted and yet uncomfortable as you confront the idea that the people who do terrible things are indeed just that, people.

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