Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar, Arsher Ali
Director: Chris Morris
As if to prove his knack for inflaming social norms remains intact, satirist Chris Morris has appropriated a term associated with English patriotism for a film about a group of British Muslims trying to launch suicide bomb attacks in their home country.
The absurdity of this juxtaposition is heightened by hilariously subversive moments, such as scenes that reveal the jihadis' failure to reconcile their British ways of life and the hazy motives which run against every bit of their existence. But Four Lions never attains the brutal social critique that ran through Morris' past work, in which he injected sharp intellectualism into even seemingly infantile pranks.
Morris has never faltered when tackling controversial topics head-on. After all, this is the man who, well before Sacha Baron Cohen came up with Borat, exposed the social hypocrisy inherent in moral crusades and simplified consensuses about complex social issues (such as getting politicians and celebrities to endorse some utterly ridiculous hoax campaigns).
Having told the press about his intention to reveal the 'Dad's Army aspect' of terrorism, Morris has certainly dared to show the unshowable with the depiction of his 'lions': there's Omar (Riz Ahmed), the gang leader who struggles with his plans while enjoying a fine suburban family life; his intellectually impaired sidekick Waj (Kayvan Novak), who wreaks the wrong havoc at a Pakistani training camp with Omar; the fumbling Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who plans to explode bombs attached to crows; Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a new convert styling himself as a fiery radical; and Hassan (Arsher Ali), who's all mouth but no guts about his self-styled calling.
While Morris could never be trusted for feel-good closure - people do die in the film - Four Lions could have done with more contemplation about the conditions that spawn these 'lions'.
By drawing laughs solely from these fundamentalists, it seems suspiciously aloof in looking at the media panic about religious and cultural wars. Lacking the incredulous and/or other-worldly humour of, say, Morris' past television work such as The Day Today or Brass Eye, the film is a good romp but devoid of the bite that condemns the over-arching powerplay which shapes perception and disorder in the world today. Extras: deleted scenes.