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4 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Four Lions
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by Mel Valentin

"A jhadist satire for the rest of us..."
5 stars

Soon after the release of "Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" in 1964, writer-director Stanley Kubrick was asked why he made a comedy on what everyone agreed was a deadly serious subject, nuclear war (and nuclear annihilation). In response, Kubrick claimed there simply wasn’t an alternative to a clearly absurd, tragic reality, a reality appropriate summed up by M.A.D., an acronym that stood (and still stands) for “Mutual Assured Destruction." A similar argument or case can be made for writer-director Chris Morris’ fearless, brilliant, comic masterpiece, "Four Lions," a “jihadist satire” by another name.

Four Lions centers on four British Muslims, Omar (Riz Ahmed), Waj (Kayvan Novak), Barry (Nigel Lindsay), Fessal (Adeel Akhtar), each disaffected with modern British life in some vague, abstract way. Omar’s the natural leader; Waj, the dumbest member of the group, the natural follower; Barry, a British convert to Islam, is the most extreme; and Fessel, smarter than Waj, but no less malleable, brings up the rear. Omar has a reasonably undemanding middle-class lifestyle, a job as a security guard, a preteen son who adores him, and a loving, faithful wife, Sophia (Preeya Kalidas), who fervently supports his desire to become a martyr. Despite his impending martyrdom, Omar still can’t get along with his ultra-uptight, ultra-religious brother, Ahmed (Wasim Zakir).

Hoping to turn his ideals, no matter how ill-founded or misguided, into action, Omar recruits Waj to join him at a training camp for anti-Western jihadists in Pakistan. Omar and Waj’s prolonged bout of idiocy, however, soon sends them back to the UK. To hide their failure, Omar convinces the others that he’s been given the ultra-important task of disrupting the upcoming London marathon by turning suicide bombers. Barry recruits a new member, Hassan (Arsher Ali), a bored, immature, middle-class twenty-something, to join the group on their suicide mission.

What follows, naturally enough given the utter ineptitude of Omar and his group, is a series of misunderstandings, missteps, and mishaps, each one more ridiculous and ludicrous than the last. Each mishap, while bringing them closer to the London Marathon, also results in a gradual, expertly handled shift in tone from hilarious to tragic. Tragedy-laced humor, no matter how black, is often difficult to pull off, but it’s an indication of Morris’ talents as a writer-director (he’s worked on British television and radio for more than twenty years) that the shift never feels forced or contrived, but instead feels completely organic and believable.

More importantly (at least from the standpoint of the average moviegoer), "Four Lions" is one of the most consistently funny films in years. That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s not (or only slightly, to be honest). Morris may be a first-time feature-film director, but his two decades writing and producing for British television and radio, with built-in time limits, obviously helped him in developing the script for "Four Lions" (four years of field research also helped). Every scene serves the triple function of illuminating character (or rather characters, since rarely is a character alone), advancing the plot, and hitting multiple comic/satirical beats, making "Four Lions" all the more remarkable, especially in comparison with American comedies. And that’s saying nothing about the uniformly excellent, born-to-play-their-respective-characters talent Morris assembled for "Four Lions." In short, run, okay, jog to your local multiplex (assuming "Four Lions" is playing nearby) and don’t miss out on one of the best films of the year (hyperbole definitely intended).

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20092&reviewer=402
originally posted: 11/12/10 18:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/15/15 john 1 1 stars
8/23/13 Ionicera kind of inconsistant in tone but lots of dark humor moments throughout 4 stars
11/09/10 mistermanager I really wanna see this! 5 stars
11/07/10 Dorothy Rozdilsky would watch again 4 stars
11/05/10 plop 5 5 stars
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  05-Nov-2010 (R)
  DVD: 08-Mar-2011

  07-May-2010 (15)

  26-Aug-2010 (M)
  DVD: 08-Mar-2011

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Chris Morris

Written by
  Chris Morris
  Jesse Armstrong
  Sam Bain

  Riz Ahmed
  Arsher Ali
  Nigel Lindsay
  Kayvan Novak

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