by Joanna Orland
In a post 9-11 climate, with the problems in Afghanastan and Iraq far from over, and with Pakistani terrorist training camps still in full use, it’s amazing that Chris Morris even got to make the film that he did with Four Lions. Taking a low key comedic approach to produce his satire on terrorism, Morris not only humanizes the 5 main terrorist characters, but also finds the humour in their ways.
Chris Morris is a British Comedic Institution known for such classic work as Brass Eye, The Day Today, Nathan Barley, Jam and most recently the IT Crowd. Being a foreigner, I can’t claim I’ve ever seen Brass Eye, but feel as though I have from the amount of time English folk reminisce about the CAKE sketch… or the Paedophelia episode! Obviously Morris’ work is ballsy and leaves quite an impact on viewers for years to come. I don’t think Four Lions is much different in that respect as this is obviously a taboo subject Morris has taken on, which will in itself leave an impact on viewers.
Humanizing terrorists and laughing at them and the situation helps to make such a serious problem not as scary anymore, which means the effect of terrorism is lessened through the power of comedy. Sweet.
As far as comedic value goes, it is most definitely funny. Not ROFL funny, but there are quite a few Laugh Out Loud moments that were classic! In my “North American” opinion, I think this subject matter might have worked a bit better as a more outright farce with a higher production value rather than the handy cam style that was used to shoot the entire film. Not wanting to make it all flashy and take away from the dialogue, but it just seemed a bit too realistic, which distracted from the comedy element ever-so-slightly.
I’m likely only one of a few to think this of the film, but that’s because I have recently watched the episode of Dispatches: Afghanistan: Behind Enemy Lines which is a documentary from within a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. Not far off from Four Lions, the terrorists were not only humanized, but there was also comedy to be found in dire situations. Incidents such as their roadside bomb not going off while they thought the remote control was broken, and as they demonstrate how the big red button doesn’t work, the bomb ironically goes off with comedic timing – Real life terrorist fumbles begging to be parodied.
To stay moderate, the film not only makes fun of the terrorists’ intellectual levels and ability to execute a plot, but it also makes quite the point on how the British are quick to generalize and stereotype with harsh judgements. This isn’t honed in too much, but feels rather like an after thought and device to help along the main characters in their development.
Anyway, this film is probably more comedy than political and shouldn’t be overanalyzed too much. Definitely funny, certainly topical, and most surely one to view for our generation. Not sure it’s worth a trip all the way to the cinema as it’s aesthetically more suited for television, but as I said…. it’s one to watch.