Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #85: Four Lions (2010)

Chris Morris, a notoriously shy, reclusive BBC comedian and so-called "media terrorist" has directed his first feature film. And fittingly, it's about terrorism. Yippee! He's directed for and starred in various BBC television projects in the past, and his stuff is typically hilarious and full of biting commentary. Seeing his name on the DVD case certainly grabbed my interest, since it promised something aggressively satirical.

Four Lions centres on four British jihadists trying to take their ideals to a violent end and blow themselves up in the name of the great struggle against MacDonald's and Jews and all that jazz. One of the characters is so comfortable with blowing up that his own family encourages him lovingly towards his goal as though he were simply going for a raise at his security job. He's the one with the most relative sense, and the other guys are mostly hapless, confused, and belligerent. Some of them aren't exactly sure they want to blow up, but the peer pressure is too great for them. One goes so far as to try to train cute, friendly crows strapped with bombs to fly into sex toy shops and jihad themselves up to heaven. It doesn't go too well.

While the characters are clearly huge idiots, they also seem very human. The stupidity that it takes to blow yourself up and kill people doesn't precisely come from a fanatically religious place in Four Lions. Rather, it seems to have more to do with human insecurities and vulnerabilities. This makes the characters mostly sympathetic idiots rather than easily dismissed and disliked religious lunatics. You get the constant impression that these people are missing something and getting in way over their heads. The key phrase at a pivotal moment in the narrative is "I'm sorry. I don't really know what I'm doing."

So: Some interesting and endearing satire. Worth a look.

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