Four Lions

Is a wookiee a bear?

I’ve had this movie on my mental shopping list for a while now. I spotted the DVD was on sale for a fiver last weekend and figured it was about time. There was one thing that struck me though. More than the Daily Mail-baiting suicide bomber jokes, what initially bothered me was the fact that literally everybody in this world is a fucking idiot. The more I thought about the movie though, the more I liked it. Yes, everybody is a moron. But that makes everyone the same. Chris Morris can’t be accused of taking the piss out of Muslims because he’s taking the piss out of every single soul here. Also, everyone deserves it.

We start off with four Sheffield jihadists led by family man Omar, with slow-witted Waj, radical white convert Barry and “crow whisperer” Fessal. Omar is the only one with any kind of life outside the group; his wife and young son both seem to have taken his plan completely in stride, while his strictly observant brother is totally in the dark. Omar and Waj manage to get themselves invited to a training camp in Pakistan (which doesn’t end well) while back at home Barry recruits another member to the cell: young rapper Hassan.

It’s when Omar and Waj return that the plans start coming together. Omar doesn’t have a specific target in mind, but Barry wants to blow up a mosque, insisting that it will incite the moderate Muslims of the country and stir up a full-blown war. Meanwhile, Fessal is working on a delivery system: his crows. Like a feathered flock of miniature mujahadeen, they’re being rigged up and trained to Kamikaze themselves. The rigging works fine; the training, not so much.

After Hassan’s dalliance with the druggy neighbour (played by Julia Davis) causes a security breach, the bomb factory has to be moved, leading to the loss of one of the group after a freak sheep-tripping accident. This is the final straw that causes the group to split, with Omar going out on his own. It’s his concern for Waj that makes him to go back and lead the remaining four on their suicide attack on the London Marathon.

Speaking of Omar and Waj, this is the most sympathetic and, yes, heartbreaking relationship in the film. If they remind me of anyone it would be Gary Sinise and John Malkovich as George and Lenny in Of Mice And Men. Even the physicality is similar, with Kayvan Novak – as Waj – towering over Riz Ahmed’s Omar.

Kayvan Novak is unrecognisable here from his other gig as the Fonejacker and Facejacker on Channel 4. Riz Ahmed is excellent as always, but Waj is the highlight of this movie as far as I’m concerned. I can’t talk about the cast without mentioning Nigel Lindsay as Barry. Apparently based on a real former member of the British National Party who converted himself to Islam by accident while studying the Koran in order to argumentally out-wit the people he hated, Barry is proof that the convert is always the biggest zealot. He is the comedy extremist here, especially when Omar swears at him in Urdu (which he can’t understand). These three get the lion’s share of screentime (sorry) but all the actors are uniformly convincing as various levels of buffoons.

This movie works as a satire, it works as a slapstick comedy, it just works. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, do so now. Thank me later.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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