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.

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From The Archives: Terrorism

From my ancient MSN Spaces blog, the day of the London bombings:
It was not a good day.

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10.17
Theres been some horrific set of explosions on the london underground.  They dont know much and the initial suggestions are that there were power surges causing explosions but theres talk of a top floor of a bus blowing up.  I would write more but the most important person in the world to me is in london today and i cant get hold of her 😦 i really really hope im being silly.
11:35
Tears of relief and anger.
Death tolls not coming in yet but its terrorism alright.
Hannah is okay, i searched the net and found the number for her work, got the number of where she was doing the training and they went and got her for me, rather unmanly i burst into tears the second i heard her voice.  She was a few stops before anywhere that would have put her in this and had only just heard about what had happenned while i spent half an hour shouting at my phone for not being able to connect (all the networks are getting overloaded) and some poor telesales guy got shouted at when he rang.  But shes okay, i also cant get hold of terry, hes in croydon so hopefully not affected, i hope hes not chosen this day to go in to london in fact i9 just got hold of him and hes safe so good.
My fears must seem rediculous to those affected, and for anyone else in or around london or who has friends or relatives there i wish you all the best and dearly hope no one has to have their lives wrecked by these fanatic terrorist bastards. Ive only had the slightest link to it and i was terrified, i cant possibly imagine what anyone closer linked must be feeling right now and wish you all possible strength.

Scene of bus explosion

12:06
Blair just made a statement, was a bit worried hed appear to overdo it with his wierd pauses, but he handled himself well, his eyes had that horrible look of someone fighting despair. “its just one thing after another” they seemed to say.  But he came across as a leader, hes leaving the G8 to go to london and return to gleneagles later, hes insisted the meetings go on in his absence.
I was going to add to my blog from yesterday regarding the G8, olympic news and G8 protests that i havent watched the news so much since 9/11, now today takes that title for tragically similar reasons.

Tony Blair flanked by George Bush and Jacques Chirac

13.50
Ive just seen Ken livingstones statement
in any other world id have thought it the dialogue from some shmaltzy hollywood blockbuster.  But im in floods of tears. Absolutely fantastic show of strength, none of the despair that was subtly hidden in the eyes of blair and bush, the dialogue may have been clichéd, but it had strength behind it and is just the kind of thing the people of london must need now.  i remember years ago i went on a school trip to london where he was just beginning his campaign for mayor of london.  He was on a purple bus going through trafalgar and i screamed for no apparent reason “I LOVE YOU KEN!” just because at around 17 i thought itd be funny.  id do it again now 🙂

Livingstone: Defiant