Film: Four Lions
Director: Chris Morris
Starring: Kayvan Novak, Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay
Runtime: 101 mins
Review: Hannah Clugston
Rating: * * * *
The first time I heard about Chris Morris’ new film, it was undergoing some serious scrutiny on the radio. The news show had opened up the phone line to the listeners, which resulted in several hysterical callers complaining that Four Lions was offensive, and too controversial. However, Morris is not unfamiliar with mass criticism. His 90s TV shows, The Day Today and Brass Eye, received record numbers of complaints due to their dark, satirical dealings with taboo subjects such as paedophilia, as Morris pre-emptively challenged how his audience would react.
But, as much as Morris is hated, he has also acquired a faithful base of fans who won’t be disappointed with his latest offering. Four Lions is a satirical dive into the world of terrorism, following the development of five Yorkshire would-be suicide bombers as they clumsily attempt to plot a successful attack on England. As much as his topic might sound morbid, Morris creates hilarious caricatures to bear the subject matter, and at the same time casts new light upon the people behind acts of terrorism.
The film is full of classic slapstick humour, as characters charge around in bomb-filled fancy dress costumes, strap explosives to crows and punch themselves in the face. But it’s not just a laugh-out-loud overhaul of physical comedy, as the film still represents the emotional discord that sits within these characters’ hearts. The film’s moments of reflection can make the audience feel uncomfortable, as we come to terms with the humanity underneath the modern understanding of terrorism; we feel uneasy as we watch the main characters deal with the accidental death of one of their friends. And yet, the way Morris represents these situations is by making them ridiculous, which distances the audience and allows for an objective understanding of their behaviour.
It could be argued that Morris has toned down his usually more obscure comedy to attract a larger audience. Even if he has, the impact of the film remains the same: hilarious, fatal comedy. More often than not, the people offended by Morris’ media creations are those who have not taken the time to see them, and just jump on a bandwagon of controversy hatred. This film does deal with an incredibly sensitive subject, but Morris’ individual spin shows terrorism in a fascinating, human light that can all too easily be ignored.