Film Reviews

Four Lions Chris Morris

Rating - 8/10

CONTROVERSIAL. There you go, it's done, out the way - as you're bound to read that word with every accompanying piece of journalism that deals with Chris Morris' feature length debut Four Lions. We're prone to indulging in a bit of controversy in our media in old England - be it Mephedrone, the BNP or even Cadburys chocolate; generally the rule is, the less people understand about the subject in hand, the more they have to say about it. I imagine the same will happen in respect to this film, "a comedy about terrorists? He's gone too far" etc. Yes, it’s a sensitive subject and still a wound that is being healed in the heads, hearts and bodies of many people across this world, but comedy, like language, is all about context.

Of course Chris Morris could have chosen to deal with a delicate subject in a distasteful manner (is there a tasteful one?) and piss off the world. Instead he's made a comedy that feels more like a feature length sketch show or an old fashioned crime caper gone wrong. It's steeped in an almost slapstick approach that feels quintessentially very English at heart and succeeds on many levels - but I'm sure he'll still manage to piss off the world.

The film was written by Morris, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, the latter two most famous for the multi award winning UK sitcom Peep Show. The film is shot in Sheffield and focuses around the attempts of a group of Muslims attempting to become suicide bombers. Their targets of what to blow up range from Boots chemists to a mosque, a crow and even a kebab shop. The film in essence is a series of ongoing catastrophes as they haphazardly and stupidly prepare to make bombs in their flat. Their disasters range from inviting a demented neighbour round to dance to Toploader's Dancing In The Moonlight whilst the flat is stocked to the brim with incriminating homemade explosives to someone tripping over a sheep whilst carrying explosives and killing themselves.

The film is a constant barrage of comedic material bordering on one-liners at many times, it’s a vast departure from Morris' subtle and piercing humour displayed on earlier work such as Brass Eye. Arguably, this could be put down to the inclusion of Bain and Armstrong as writers, which would make sense - the banter between the characters is reminiscent of that of Peep Show and squeezes in a very substantial laugh per minute ratio. Although, I think what needs to be taken into consideration is their attempt to tackle the subject. By creating such a relentless stream of humour that at times borders on ridiculous in some scenes - it actually achieves its goal. By making the whole thing so daft, it actually both supersedes and eclipses the topic at hand, whilst at the same time wiping out the issue of race. The emphasis of the film is placed so firmly on that of stupidity that the subject matter, the religion and colour of the people in the film genuinely do not even come into contempt or even real thought, as I imagine they are not supposed to. The stupidity lies just as heavily on the shoulders of the blundering police force in the film as they do the bumbling terrorist wannabe's. Oddly enough, for a Chris Morris film it can be largely taken at face value as a straight up comedy, and for almost all of it, it works. If anything it can feel a tad gag-heavy at times, but it's still a relentless joy to watch.

The sad thing is, is that a film has been made that highlights the stupidity of hysterical and ill-informed people, that will probably be brandished as bad taste by hysterical, ill informed people.