25 March 2011

Four Lions

Directed by: Christopher Morris
Written by: Christopher Morris, with Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and Simon Blackwell
Full credits at IMDb

The conceptually ballsy Four Lions is a very funny movie...about terrorism! It's centered on an English cell of disaffected young men with radical Mujahideen tendencies, plotting to suicide-bomb London. Director Morris humanizes them by positing them as familiar Apatow types: bickering buddies who can't figure out, at prayer time, which way Mecca lies. (The horrifying subtext of these wouldbe jihadis' buffoonery is that we're powerless to stop such morons from exploding us.) The skittish camera and skit-ish structure—not to mention the sense of humor, based around awkwardness, asshole behavior and perpetual incompetence—recalls the improv-based, handheld-shot English television comedies, from Ricky Gervais' multiple series through 2009's big-screen In the Loop. (Morris' previous credits are all from UK TV.)

The most unsettling part of the movie is how, through this kind of stylistic and structural familiarity, it makes us feel something we wouldn't readily think we could. Morris' gutsiest move, counterintuitively, is to exploit comedy cliches: the main character's wife and son, for example, buck-up his suicide-bombing spirits when he becomes discouraged and his plot looks bound to fail. C'mon, buddy—you can do it! Weirdly, we want him to: Four Lions is about a man struggling to follow his dreams, setbacks and all, and thus taps into the sympathies we've established over a lifetime of narrative experience. Who doesn't want to see a man accomplish his goals with the help of his friends? A comedy about radical Muslim terrorists is one thing—one that makes us root for our own demise is quite another. Grade: A-

Watch the trailer:

No comments: