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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Four Lions


Starring: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak and Adeel Akhtar
Elevation Sales
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 30 August 2010

Four disparately desperate British jihadists travel in increasingly absurd circles in an effort to give voice to their disenchantment with the treatment of Islam. Determined to martyr themselves, the four clash intellectually, with what little intellect that they possess. The problem for the four is that at best they are intellectually challenged, at worse virtual morons. Even given their limitations the four prove that even idiots with little or no ability can still set themselves on a path to tragedy...

Four Lions (2010 - 1 hr, 37 min, 04 sec) is a dark comedy from Christopher Morris, who as a writer and performer has always courted controversy with his shows The Day Today and Brass Eye, especially its show about pedophilia. The film was directed by Morris and written by Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Simon Blackwell and Christopher Morris. The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

One of the themes that runs through much of his work, including this film, is the ability for apparently sane people to open their mouths and spout the most bizarre nonsense and not only believe it themselves but also get others to listen and agree with them.

Another theme is the power of the media to manipulate information in such a way as to also have a reality altering effect, an effect which is accepted by the public because of the power of the medium. So, in Four Lions we witness our inept jihadists trying to make their martyrdom tapes, not only does this prove more difficult than they imagined, but the medium is presented as free of moral weight or consequences when the leader happily shows his family the outtakes and bloopers.

The story is set in the north of England, where the four try to make it through their collective lack of IQ to formulate action. Omar (Riz Ahmed) displays the most insight into their lack of ability. But even he, when sent to a Pakistani training camp, fundamentally misunderstands one end of a rocket launcher from the other, failing to shoot down the spy plane he was aiming at and instead wiping out a neighbouring Arab camp. In their endeavour he is hindered by his friend Waj (Kayvan Novak) who gives their position away whilst trying to upload a video of him shooting off an AK from his phone, mind you by this time the audience is in no doubt that they may be looking at one of the stupidest people in the world as he had already mistaken chickens as “f*cked-up rabbits with no ears”.

Meanwhile, back in England the remainder of the cell are having no better luck. Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), is the only one of the group with the expertise to build bombs, but is unable to martyr himself as his dad eats newspaper. He also thinks that a disguise consist of him speaking in his own voice - somehow convinced that this sounds like a woman - whilst holding his hands up to barely cover his beard. Omar's rival for the leadership of the group is a rather bizarre white convert to Islam. Barry (Nigel Lindsay), is the most radical of the group, but also the one with the slimmest grasp on the ideology, given that he thinks that blowing up a mosque is a great idea, still he is somewhat charismatic and is able to recruit the final member, in the form of Hassan (Arsher Ali), who thinks nothing of bringing someone in for a dance whilst the flat is full of bomb making equipment.

That is not to say that Morris is not able to humanise his characters, the barb here is not for the jihadists but for the type of woolly thinking which leads them and others to assume that killing yourself and innocents is somehow either rational or noble. The film swing between black farce to ultimate tragedy. In the end you want to protect them from themselves, even Omar who, being the most intelligent, should have known better. Although the film undoubtedly pushes boundaries in taste it also has a stunningly funny script and a real message at its heart.

Given that the film only came out this year it naturally has a faultless transfer with realistic skin tones, pin sharp detail and good black and white contrast. The film comes with audio options for either a 2.0 or 5.1 track with additional English subtitles. The sound is clear, but then there is little else going on in the soundscape.

The extras come in the form of seven deleted scenes, a Lost Boys documentary (8 min, 27 sec) and an interview with Mohammed Ali (13 min, 01 sec).

The film's controversial subject matter is likely to upset some people, but I suspect that many of these will be ideologically challenged to begin with; I am reminded of the controversy surrounding Python's Life of Brian, where supposedly good Christian people demanded, and in some cases achieved, the film's banning without ever watching it. Truly enlightened people know that the first step to knowledge is the ability to laugh at yourself, not a difficult feat in a film which has lines like "Women are talking back. People are playing string instruments. It's the end of days."


Charles Packer

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