23 May 2010

FOUR LIONS (Dir. Chris Morris, 2010, UK) - Is he a martyr or is he a Jalfrezi?

Along with David Baddiel’s well received The Infidel and now the Chris Morris directed Jihadi satire Four Lions it is the comedy genre which has thus far proven to be the most significant vehicle for confronting the post 9-11 radicalisation of the British Muslim community. Chris Morris is arguably one of the more controversial figures to have emerged out of British TV in the past few years. Researching extensively for such a contentious project (three years), it is tellingly evident in the clarity with which Morris probes the ‘confused’ minds of the British Muslim male that laughter is the one means of discourse upon which we can all agree. The Observer film critic Philip French in his review compares Four Lions to Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove in terms of satirising a political context, that of Islamic terrorism, which most media find somewhat objectionable to debate or analyse without resorting to outright, simplistic or demonic condemnation. In many ways, Four Lions taps into a British tradition of political and social satire which can be traced back to the Ealing Comedies, Monty Python and even the frivolous Carry on films. By focusing on the British Muslim community in the North and especially Yorkshire means that a lot of the humour generated by the five main leads extends from the perspective of the British Pakistani youth.

The stroke of genius with Four Lions is that by humanising Islamic fundamentalism and depicting the inner lives of suicide bombers with a focus on family, friendship and loyalty, the film brings into the mainstream an aspect of British society that much of the media including film has simply refused to explore with such incisive social commentary. Four Lions has been an unexpected commercial success and Optimum releasing responded wisely by opening the film on more screens in the second week. The ensemble performances led by Riz Ahmed and Kayvan Novak are spot on whilst the screenplay (which has obviously benefited from improvisatory workshops) by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain (writers behind In the Loop) produces a consistent level of hilarity.

It is hard to pick out a favourite sequence but this is one that has already become somewhat of a classic scene:

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