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Four Lions
Genre Comedy
Year: 2010
 
Review:

Terrorism and comedy... seem worlds apart in the news. When the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center took place, everyone froze in front of their TV screens as headlines called it a catalyst for World War III. Zeitgeist, a viral conspiracy theory film, raised questions as to some of the unanswered questions and slowly the news story reached a natural conclusion as the hunt for Osama Bin Laden continued in vain. Seems like yesterday, but it was almost a decade ago and many have ventured forth into the controversial terrain of comedy in terrorism, most recently Four Lions. The story follows a group of British jihadists, who push their do-and-die mission to the breaking point as their misapprehensions and clash of ideologies threaten to implode the unit one way or another.

One way people cope with real-life horror is comedy. It wasn't even weeks before the Internet started spewing all sorts of "funny" material with bad sense of timing. However, these"jokes" sought to minimise the impact of something as devastating as 9/11. Laughter is the best medicine and there's a level of hidden truth to this statement. When you look back and have a laugh about something, it's meant to show you've triumphed... overcome the obstacle and gotten over it. They also say there's always a hint of seriousness in a joke and perhaps it's the intrinsic "tragedy" as John Cleese put it, that carries the jest of the humour.

Joke or no joke, this is the terrain of director, Christopher Morris, of Four Lions notoriety. We've survived Team America: World Police, American Dreamz and even Jeff Dunham with their comedy disarming the world of international terrorism. The fact is that there is a space to ridicule extremism as well as terrorism. Bombs have been a classic device in cartoons for decades... and it wasn't that big a leap to strap them to people intent on sacrificing their lives in the name of comedy.

Planting Four Lions in London was a risky move, considering that films like London River, which deals with the aftershock of acts of terrorism are still coming out. True healing is obviously still in progress... and acts of terrorism are still a very real threat. Director, Christopher Morris, made a very brave move in setting the scene in modern day London. The tone may be comedy, but the underlying seriousness of the character's actions are enough to stir up pockets of protest in communities. The characters show that ideology is one thing and being an idiot is an entirely different matter and Four Lions treads a fine line, which makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Luckily, Four Lions is controversial, irreverent and not inciteful... portraying the misadventures of four fools rather than stereotyping. Surprisingly, the film has parallels with Monty Python & The Holy Grail. There are four/five members of the troupe. An irreverent, camp and silly undertone carries the drama. You could argue that they are also knights on a holy quest. The edgy comedy is driven home by a low budget, reality feel to the cinematography. The mission involves the leader gathering a number of members around him, who are inept and idiotic. It's British.

The cast is made up of several unknown actors with Benedict Cumberbatch (Amazing Grace) the most famous in a minor supporting role. The rest of the ensemble include: Kayvan Novak as Waj, Arsher Ali as Hassan, Adeel Akhtar as Fessal, Nigel Lindsay as Barry and Riz Ahmed as Omar. Writing the character of Barry into Four Lions was a wise move, echoing the fact that the film isn't about stereotyping or racial discrimination. Lindsay owned Barry and really went to town with making him out to be a complete twit. Riz Ahmed led from the front with a contained and straight-faced take on some incredibly ridiculous scenes.

Four Lions is a character-driven situational comedy with a selection of finely-tuned performances. The sincerity of the members is essential for the story to unleash wild comedy as well as rope things in for the grand finale. It's a social commentary, it's a hilarious romp and it ends with an air of poignancy that makes the journey refreshing and thought-provoking.

The bottom line: Edgy.

 

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