Sunday, 15 April 2012

Movies That I Haven't Seen But Should Have - Part 3: Terrorism

There are a lot of movies I'm ashamed to admit I’ve never seen. But rather than pretend I’ve seen them or change the subject when they’re mentioned, I’ve decided to share them with you. These films that are cult classics or masterpieces that I have missed or avoided, I am sitting down to review. Today's film is not an old time classic that has been in AFI's top 100 for twenty years. It is not a box office disaster that turned around  with the following of huge cult fan-base. It is a movie that was extremely well received and I have just not got around to. It is a movie that treads the line between controversial and genius. It is Four Lions.

Somewhere, deep in London, radicalised British Muslim, Omar (Riz Ahmed), is part of a terrorist organisation that is trying to start its war with the west. Also in the group is Omar's brother, Waj (Kayvan Novak), angry white convert, Barry (Nigel Lindsay), and nervous Faisal (Adeel Akhtar). When Omar's uncle tells Omar and Waj to come to Pakistan for training, they jump on the opportunity, leaving Barry in charge. Omar and Waj, within seconds of stepping on to the training base, begin screwing up. Before they know it, they're back home to find Barry has roped in a new boy, Hassan (Arsher Ali), when 'hiding in plain sight'. Deciding to keep Hassan, Omar begins to lay out plans for their big Jihad. Their are plenty of arguments between the group, Barry in particular wishes to bomb a Mosque in order to encourage an uprising, but forgets that this only works if he doesn't take credit for the attack, which he wants to do. Faisal wants to attach bombs to crows and fly them into shops and places of political importance. Hassan is more of a rapper than a terrorist and Waj just wants to go to Alton Towers. Overall, they're a bunch of idiots.

How many other films contain The Honey Monster arguing with a man on an ostrich
while an upside down clown watches on and a ninja turtle hitting his head on a van?

As an actor, it is hard to do controversial satire well. There's a line and it is one that, with a few mistakes, can be pole vaulted over. With a subject such as terrorism, the actors (and director) have to handle it well. The actors in this movie did it well. The point that must be made straight away is that this is a movie mocking the characters, not what the characters are doing. They may make bombs, but that's never the point of comedy. the point of comedy is how they react to making the bombs. And that's what's funny. Riz Ahmed grounds the group. His comedy comes from his frustration with the idiots he deals with (though he's no bright bulb himself). His rants are almost unforgettable ('Is he a martyr or is he a Jalfrezi'). Then there's Nigel Lindsay, who plays Barry, and takes the role of extremist to a whole new level. Accusing a lady with her baby, a milkman and anything else around him of being an undercover agent. Claiming that the reason his car breaks is because the spark plug was Jewish made. All in all, he's a very accusing person. Novak, Akhtar, and Ali are almost the three stooges of the group. Ali's Hussan almost blows their cover several times because of his stupidity, Novak's Waj thinks that firing a gun to impress people in a secret terrorist base is a good idea, and Akhtar's Faisal thinks that covering his beard with his hands will disguise him as a woman. Their comedy timing is impeccable.

Real men never pay attention to the instructions.

It would be pushing it to say that Christopher Morris was a genius. He is obviously very talented at handling a tricky subject matter. Obviously people will be offended and obviously there will be controversy. That being said, people found a way to make controversy over most Disney princess films so really, controversy is nothing. The script is by far the best thing about this movie. It's fast, it's witty, but best of all, it's experimental. Can we get away with that, can we get away with this? It all combines into a beautifully dark piece of film. Not to say it's anywhere near perfect though. At times - especially the beginning - it seems slow. Once it picks off, it's fine, but it needs more of a push at the start. And I promise you, I do not want to see a long zoom across London onto one house ever again. That shot was recycled more times than needed and, in my humble opinion, made the film lose pace and seem disjointed.

It's a funny movie. It is a borderline offensive movie. It is a contemporary satire. It is the sort of thing that we should see more often, especially because Benedict Cumberbatch is in it. It pushes taboo boundaries and questions serious issues. It doesn't poke fun at religion or the act of terrorism. It pokes fun at stupid people doing something that requires high intelligence. It's very British in it's humour taste but can still be well received anywhere. It seems obvious, but if you think you'll find a comedy about terrorism offensive, don't watch it. Rather than watch it and then complain. I think it's tastefully handled. It's a damn good satire.


Best Bit? Hussan, Barry, and Faisal's ends. Dark comedy at its finest.  

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