Four Lions

Director    Chris Morris
Starring    Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar, Arsher Ali, Preeya Kalidas
Release    TBA (US) 07 MAY (UK)    Certificate 15
4 stars


5th May 2010

"Terrorist cells have the same group dynamics as stag parties and five a side football teams," states director Chris Morris. It is this dynamic that he brings to Four Lions, his debut feature film about a group of young men from a city in the North of England planning to blow themselves up. In many respects Morris' protagonists could be planning the ultimate stag night or trying to win their five a side league; they just happen to be talking about suicide and murder.

Omar (Riz Ahmed) is the driving force at the centre of the plotters: to him, death is a serious business. Unfortunately he is lumbered with Waj (Kayvan Novak), the Dougal to Omar's Father Ted, and Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a belligerent buffoon spoiling for a fight. Add to the mix Hassan (Arsher Ali), Barry's slightly reluctant recruit, and Fessal (Adeel Akhtar) who has the smart of idea of strapping explosives to crows. The combination of these characters paves the way for the perfect mix of banter, bickering and slapstick.

While the other four serve comedic purposes, Omar is a fully rounded and sympathetic character. The scenes in which he openly speaks of his intention to sacrifice himself to his wife and child are chilling, while his relationship with his fundamentalist but peace-loving brother is fraught with tension.

[gallery]So, having decided to blow yourself up, how do you go about it? Why would this bunch of berks know anything about the mechanics of explosives? They must harness the necessary equipment and expertise without attracting any suspicion. Now that Morris has pointed it out, it seems like such an obvious source of comedy. It's not threatening, it's farcical. The trials and tribulations of the group as they try to overcome all the practical hurdles to becoming a jihadist bomber take up much of the film, so it's a little thin in terms of plot, but the script ensures this is not a problem.

And what a script it is. It's one to drool over, as you might expect from the combined efforts of the brains behind Brass Eye and Peep Show. Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain have produced a screenplay that deserves multiple viewings to be fully absorbed and appreciated. On first viewing, it's like being caught in a hailstorm of great lines, raining down on you so thick and fast that you only come away with a vague impression of brilliance and the odd standout quote ("Fuck Mini Babybel!").

As the film progresses and revels in its own ridiculousness, it starts to take a much darker turn. Suddenly it all seems very real and sad that these characters we've become attached to want to give up their lives for something they barely understand. It's only then that you stop and realise what exactly you've been laughing at for the first two thirds of the film. Morris isn't preaching, there is a lot to find funny in this situation, but there's also a lot to feel bleak about. Waj's confused face is in fact the only one he has - it's funny, but it's pretty hopeless too.

Morris is back and proves to be as sharp and daring on the big screen as he is on the small. We can't wait to see what our friend Chris Tookey makes of this. I can hear the vein in his temple starting to throb already.

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