The Human Phillipede

So I went to see it…

Oh dear.

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Four Lions

So I went to see Four Lions on Saturday.

I’d been chomping at the bit to see it; a big Chris Morris fan, I was looking forward to seeing something new from him, he’s been away too long.  However, I think this anticipation hindered things for me, as though I really enjoyed it, I found myself wanting more.

It’s hilarious, and for all the grumblings about the controversial topic (if you don’t know, it’s a film about a group of bumbling terrorists making a pig’s ear of their own jihad on the UK), I think it’s just the right kind of film to make in today’s climate.  Terrorism is one of the things the western world is most disgusted, offended and afraid of. So why not send it up as a subject of ridicule? It won’t make the act any less horrific, but terrorists win, because we’re afraid of them and their ability to let their ego/idiocy/compliance lead to murder.  Throughout the film, Morris ensures that the ideologies, arguments and reasons behind their jihad are contradictory, confused and paper thin – and it leads to some of the funniest moments of the film.  A case in point being in the last quarter of the film when our main character, Omar, has to literally reverse something he said to convince his brother to continue with their suicide bombing plan.  It points out the sheep like nature of some that follow such destructive causes, and the manipulative nature of their leaders. It makes terrorists – these figures of fear – into farcical idiots.

The best of these is Barry, a white convert to Islam, the funniest character in the film, he exaggerates his  English accent to make him seem even more unlikely a fundamentalist, and his desperate attempts to turn every outcome to his favour and his cause make him a stroke of comic genius.

The film surprises a number of times, leading to real laugh-out-loud moments, but there’s more to it that straightforward farce.  There are important messages under all the daft antics.  The importance of mocking terrorism is there, as are subtle and very unsubtle insinuations that the forces that are supposed to protect us are just as useless a bunch of morons as those who want to hurt us.  But nevertheless, the wrong people get shot, information is handled poorly, and the innocent suffer.

Fantastic as it was, I was expecting a bit more.  I hold Chris Morris up as an somewhat of an iconic figure, controversy follows him almost whatever he does, but it’s always due to him making an incredibly good point rather than the shock-value so many ‘controversial’ comics deal in.  But as far as Chris Morris comedy goes, Four Lions is relatively tame.  There are still moments that make you uncomfortable – there’s one incredibly weird moment where our jihad-intent hero is feeling overcome by the obstacles in his way (including exploding friends), so his family appear with loving words to tell him they believe in him. It’s essentially a feel-good, schmaltzy moment where the protagonist is inspired by the heart-warming support of his loved ones.  Only what he’s being inspired to do is kill us filthy westerners.

Nevertheless he could have gone further with this, but perhaps he knew too well that the anarchic, wild style of Brass Eye and Jam would be too much for most audiences.  In being more accessible, more people will realise how clever he is as a writer.  Those that speak out against don’t like the prospect that it makes us take terrorism less seriously.  This is not the case.  Morris did extensive research, speaking to imams, police, special forces and experts in the field, but more importantly sat in on trials of botched terrorist attacks – and related the incompetence to farcical Ealing comedy.  Making this film was an incredibly good idea.  Some don’t want terrorists humanised; but if we don’t, they remain the boogeyman, this film points out that they are just human – it takes away some of the power they have over us.  It allows us to mock and ridicule those that want us cowering under our tables in, well, terror.