Explosive comedy breaks last taboo

If you thought the final taboo in film making was poking fun at suicide bombers - then consider it well and truly broken.

As the latest offering from BAFTA award winning director Chris Morris, better known for writing satirical comedy shows The Day Today and Brass Eye, does just that.

Four Lions tells the story of a group of British jihadists who push their dreams of glory to breaking point.

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As the wheels fly off, and their competing ideologies clash, what emerges is an emotionally engaging and entirely plausible farce.

It shows that while terrorism is about ideology, it can also be about idiots.

In a Northern British city, four men have a secret plan.

Omar (Riz Ahmed) is disillusioned about the treatment of Muslims around the world and is determined to become a soldier.

This is the most exciting idea the slightly stupid Waj (Kayvan Novak) has ever heard.

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Better still it’s a no brainer for Waj as he lets Omar do all of his thinking for him.

Opposed to Omar, and everyone else on earth, is the white Islamic convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay).

Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) is the odd man out.

He can make a bomb, but he can’t blow himself up just now because his sick dad has “started eating newspaper”.

So instead he’s training crows to fly bombs through windows.

This is what Omar has to deal with.

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The group must strike a decisive blow on their own turf, but can any of them strike a match without punching himself in the face?

Morris’s basic strategy is to undermine and undercut.

The jihadis are hopelessly confused and contradictory, caught between their assimilated lifestyle and righteous ideological fire.

Omar, for example, can’t stop mocking his far more religious brother Fessel, a main vehicle for the doofus comedy, buys bomb-making material with a voice disguised as his own.

Plus he forgets about his beard when he presents himself as a woman.

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Omar and Waj bond by asserting that they would happily kill the other if they had to.

Barry is constantly trying to insert himself into a group trip to the Middle East, even though it is quite clear he is not wanted by the others.

And when the authorities finally track the group down, Morris doesn’t spare them either.

The police trying to foil the bombers are just as incompetent as everyone else.

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Morris doesn’t labour his satire, rather he concentrates heavily on the characters he is suing to tell his story.

And the result is that Four Lions is the most engaging and warm film about people who want to kill you that you’ll ever see.

They are clumsy, vain, moronic and misguided, yet for all their faults, these are people that are actually fun to spend some time with.

And even at the end, when their jihadi plans threaten to reach a kind of fruition, it’s quite uncomfortably hard to stop caring for these unlikely brothers as they take their terrorist plot to the streets of London.

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The film is well-acted throughout, and is a slow burner that gradually winds up to its frantic climax, as the final section sees the bumbling bombers running around London in hysterically inappropriate fancy dress.

Morris’s effort has definitely broken new ground, but it remains to be seen if anyone else will be brave enough to follow suit and make another terrorist comedy.

by Claire O’Neill

Star rating HHHH

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