***** Please Note, this post contains some plot spoilers *****
Wednesday night saw Orange once again. This week’s visual feast was Chris Morris’ satirical comedy Four Lions.
If you are wondering where it is you have heard the name Chris Morris before, think back to Channel 4’s BrassEye. This 90’s series was a catalogue of satirical spoof documentaries looking at explosive issues such as drugs, sex and crime. It was his episode tackling the middle-class outrage and hysteria surrounding Paedophilia, which received over 2000 complaints – although it was the repeat show, I hasten to add, and mainly from people who should not be allowed to watch TV in the first place. Morris has an envious talent for taking a very serious subject, turning it comedy, but also giving it a human face which promotes conversation. Yes, some aspects of his writing offend certain ‘warm’ sensibilities, but is it not by breaking down these barriers that we actually open up conversations and begin to understand? To accept? To fix?
I start with this because Four Lions has provoked something of a debate, and so much of me (probably very unfounded) thinks it is from people who have not seen the film. I say this because anyone who has seen the film cannot for one second seriously complain?! It is a brilliant film for so many reasons and anyone who has gleaned anything offensive from it, quite frankly needs shooting.
The film tells the tale of a group of bumbling suicide bombers, the climax being an attempted attack on London during the marathon. This is were some people had a gripe because it is ‘too close to the bone’ as it gives a nod to the London bombings. It isn’t. Those people are wrong. Those people have entirely missed the point. The story is about the reasons behind their belief system as well as attempting to break down our preconceptions about Islam and extremist factions. It tackles the hysteria head on – the hysteria of the Daily Mail Clad Muslim Hunters (something makes me think back to the Salem Witch trials! Hmmmmm. Maybe History can repeat?)
Anyway . . . the main thread follows Omar (Riz Ahmed), who is an average Joe. No, really. Not even just on the face of it, he is an everyday kinda guy that you would very happily have a pint with. He has a beautiful wife and a loving son, an idyllic home, a modern outlook on life. He doesn’t really attend the mosque and shows himself, and his family, completely separate from a lot of the stereotypical Islamic traits. His brother however, is extremely devout to the mosque, wears all the correct attire, locks his wife in a cupboard (although he claims it is a small room) and is depicted in quite an archaic manner. So which one of them openly discusses his plan of martyrdom with his family? Which one goes on a somewhat disastrous training trip to Pakistan? Of course, Omar, our lovely average lad.
The frankness and openness with which our ‘hero’ talks about is plans with his wife and little boy is very strange; it is quite a peculiar feeling to watch a smiling family laugh and discuss the father’s up and coming suicide. It is unsettling and unbelievable almost, just how much they believe in God’s word. It is the first time I have ever experienced in pictures or writing that strength of belief and that absolute knowing that God has planned this path for them. But what felt even stranger was being allowed this secret view into an unknown world whilst watching a hugely funny film!
Four Lions is without doubt one of THE funniest things I have ever seen. There is so much wit as well as a little slapstick humour, so many clever one liners as well as one of the best opening sequences money can buy! The characterisation is brilliant, and the actors deserve great applause for their varied and fascinating portrayals. Their interactions feel so natural and long lived, it was like stepping into an old friendship – but one surrounded by litres and litres of bleach all bought from the same shop and explosives from Amazon!
There are the inevitable ups and downs that every taught situation provides, but friendship and faith ultimately win through. Four suicide bombers head to the London marathon, strapped in explosives beneath fancy dress costumes; an upside down clown, a man riding an ostrich, one of the turtles and the honey monster! But, not everyone is as convinced as Omar. One has a complete freak out and runs towards the police – unhappily exploding (or, quite entertainingly so), and another, not blessed with many brain cells (in his own admittance he is “As thick as fudge!”) is confused as to whether it is his head or his heart that he follows. The third is very radical, and white, to the point of the ridiculous but his exploding comes due to an unfortunate SIM card, choking incident! Omar, after everything goes wrong, finally ends his honey monstered days in Boots – it may not seem funny now, but trust me, an earlier conversation makes this awful demise brilliantly funny.
It is a magnificent film and I really have not done it justice in this review. But I urge you to go and see it, it may be one of the most important films you ever watch. I walked out of the cinema feeling really unsettled. I was right royally tickled pink by the film and its domino joke effect, but I was really moved as well. I was heart warmed, I was touched and I was heart broken by the deaths of some very loveable people. But I felt honoured also that I had been allowed into this world that does not belong to me. It is an incredible experience. It is first and foremost a comedy but with many intertwined subtleties and understated observations, that you come out feeling almost as if it were an education.
Chris Morris is a true satirical genius and I congratulate him for blowing the doors off the middle English hush that covers most issues of home terrorism. He is a brave man and by allowing the subject to be humoured he reduces the fear. We cannot be frightened by something which makes us smile. He has reduced, to some extent, the hysteria that prevails and the terror that keeps us in our place and given us a very different view. There is nothing either which says this view is incorrect. Why should we be permanently fed one version when in actual reality a film such as Four Lions could be a true story? We just don’t know. But keeping open minded and free of pre-imposed ideas might just make us better people, might just make us make us see these types of situations through the eyes of a human being, not a political puppet.
Go, see the film. Laugh until you can’t breathe, sob and break your heart. And see a world within our own that requires a little respect. And then debate if a Wookie is a bear! Seriously!