In his feature film directorial debut, Chris Morris drops a hand grenade on the notion that all films about post 9/11 terrorism need to be worthy and sensitive to religious groups. Morris hits the right note by poking fun at individuals who want to blow themselves up as part of a misconstrued notion of Jihad. On the surface is seems that comedian Morris is trying to make an Islamic Life of Brian by portraying a group of unlikely Sheffield lads planning to form a terrorist cell.
They are a small part of a wide Islamic community that is brimful of completely batty and idiosyncratic characters. Nonetheless, the coup that Morris pulls off is to side with the view put forward by most British Muslims; that suicide bombers are as Islamic as pork sausages. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as Morris has gone on record to criticise Martin Amis and Abu Hamza for taking Islamic writings out of context and using them to incite religious hatred to meet their own agendas.
Arguably the Four Lions bombers seem loosely based on British terrorist figures such as shoe bomber Reid and the vicious men who committed the July bombings on London’s transport network. The cell leader Omar (Riz Ahmed, who as Riz MC made his own contribution to sending-up the terror threat with his track ‘Post 911 Blues’) travels with Waj (Kayvan) Novac to Pakistan to attend a terrorist training camp. Morris uses these scenes to question the notion that Al-Qaeda is a top-notch ubiquitous network creating kamikaze fighters by the hour.
What’s most unusual is that these wannabe terrorists could be characters from any modern British TV comedy. Morris depicts the guys as wanting action and excitement to lift their mundane lives rather than as fanatics. Alienation and disenfranchisement are themes that run throughout the film.
Nonetheless, while Morris scores on character development, humour and ideas, his ability to tell an engaging narrative is less obvious. The movie loses its way in a flabby and over repetitive middle segment before what is one of the most explosive and dynamic endings to a British film in years. A great debut.
General release from Fri 7 May.