Posted by: greercn | May 10, 2010

Four Lions

I really needed to laugh out loud at terrorism. I am on a lot of flights, just recently, and I am always irritated by how much more unpleasant airline security becomes each time I fly. All too often, my deeply rebellious and libertarian streak kicks in and I really do think I would rather that much of this officious “security” just vanished. I’d risk being blown up, but dying without the nonsense of the endless security checks and the concept of killer toiletries being confiscated. If that’s an illusion I want, I’d prefer it. Flying used to be fun. Now, it’s annoying.

This movie and “The Infidel” are very British attempts to grow humour out of the horror too many of us feel from the threat of terrorism and the deeply unsettling sense of living in fear. There is no doubt that the world feels a lot more dangerous since September 11th, 2001 and that living in London through grim bombings has raised the spectre that people among us may wish to turn the clock back 1000 years or more.  They want me dead. Hey, they probably want you dead too.

I laughed out loud more than I imagined I would at this uproarious comedy. There are so many good lines! And yet – and yet – with a team of four writers (“Friends”-style) couldn’t this have had a little more heart? I know warmth is out of fashion, but I had such high hopes that this new golden age of Brit and Yank movies (thanks, Phil, for the “golden” phrase) was moving towards heart-felt depth. 

The times are against me. Brittle, edgy humour rules, with more than a dash of cynicism thrown into the mix. People are out for gaining advantage at the expense of others.  Movies are no exception. Chris Morris writes and directs very funny stuff and with the help of Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and (additional writing by) Simon Blackwell, this team drags out every laugh possible from a tale of four lads, led by the magnetic Riz Ahmed as Omar, who long to die as martyrs while  taking quite a lot of us with them.

Kayvan Novak is Waj, his less intelligent and more committed friend. Off they go to Pakistan to train. They destroy their cell – including Bin Laden – in a scene that had the whole of the Stratford Picture House audience creased up and falling on the floor, in helpless giggles.

They come home and are utterly incompetent. Yet their commitment carries them through to the idea of blowing up the London Marathon. The northern scenes (Leeds, I think) are very bleak (not fair; I adore being in Leeds these days) and the London scenes are even bleaker, sending up every fast food outlet and annoyingly grim high street, in the process.

Benedict Cumberbatch is fabulous as Ed and Preeya Kalidas puts in a stellar turn as Omar’s wife Sophia. The kid is moving, too. Adeel Akhtar as Faisal and Nigel Lindsay as Barry, an English convert to radicalised Islam, are really great. And a special mention should go to Craig Parkinson’s role as Matt, who acts as a perfect foil to some pivotal moments.

But I fear that I wanted this movie to demand a great attention span and to have a lot more heart. I wanted to care more.  I left the cinema uneasy that too many opportunities to say something a tad deeper had been missed.

The best line came from the woman sitting behind me. Her guy muttered something about the cinema being like you were in someone’s home. His companion answered “Yeah, if your home is on ‘Cribs'”. For the uninitiated. MTV “Cribs” features plush homes of the rich and famous, usually coated in more than a little bling. That was the funniest line of the night. And the warmest.



  1. This film was so funny and mortifying! Its hard to have an acceptable opinion on it thats in any way based in reality, but explosions in films seem to be a winner in every context!

    I agree with you about airport security, filtering gates like livestock puts me in the wrong frame of mind for a holiday.

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