Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Juror's Film Festival: Four Lions (d. Chris Morris, 2010)

Four Lions is undoubtedly one of the most awkward films you’ll ever see. After all, it is a comedy about suicide bombers, made by Chris Morris, a man who has never shied away from the uncomfortable and whose humour is frank, brutal and close-to-the-bone.

It is also one of the most important British films made in the last ten years. It attempts to deal, through the most comedic and ridiculous ways, with perhaps the most troubling element of the war on terror: the humanity of terrorists and suicide-bombers.

This is a topic which has been dealt with in another British film: United 93. One of the most memorable moments in that film is one of the 9/11 attackers making one last phone call before he goes to complete his dreadful mission. He simply says to an unidentified recipient “I love you”.

Though we are on more light-hearted territory here, the audience is still confronted by the humanity of these men, except here it is through the prism of idiocy. The five jihadist in this film have no idea what they’re doing, their ignorance being the backdrop for most of the film’s humour: the firing of a rocket-launcher the wrong way, the strapping of a bomb to a crow and the hurried shifting of explosives across town to an allotment are but a few of the highlights.

However, it is also an oddly moving film because none of them really know why they’re doing what they’re doing. By the end, the terrorists are almost universally lost, and, for some ineffable reason, the end of the film has an empathetic air, particularly as the police response is so incompetent and unfeeling.

The upshot of this is a story which is at turns laugh-out-loud funny and devastating. People never emerge well from Morris’ satirical eye, but here the effects are even more wide ranging than usual. On paper, the plot of this film should be a crude dismissal of unpalatable murderers, and yet it challenges its audience to confront the inescapable humanity of these people. A really great film.

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