The flier for Chris Morris’ latest film Four Lions is half-covered with a rhythmic grid of quotes, all saying the same word: “FUNNY”. This film is mercilessly so. In contemporary London, five Islamic extremists knock about their sub-railroad apartment, quibbling and exchanging affectionate banter over their bomb kits and machetes. These are characters whose penchant for quoting the popular terrorist vernacular detracts nothing from the sincerity with which they aspire to greatness through martydom.
This film pulls together a ‘greatest hits’ of some of the most horrific and farcical of all terrorist bungles, accentuating the meaningless nature of blowing up an equally meaningless Western corporate landmark. Rather, human life is presented as the most valuable asset, for both Islamic and Western cultures. The point at which this film cheekily diverges from black comedy into drama is certainly catalysed by a split in that rumination on life – that it can be utilised as a weapon, or preserved as a treasure, and there will always be somebody would can interpret a death into martyrdom. The hallmarks of a traditional martyrdom are pulled apart and the viewer cannot but equate the success of a terrorists’ whole life, by the magnitude of the damage he causes when he dies.
It is very easy to fall in love with Morris’ characters, but equally easy to forget, or perhaps ignore the consistency of their path towards destruction and death. This film is almost compulsorily hilarious – we cannot help but laugh at things we wouldn’t want to find humorous, showing us how it is possible to feel elated over something as abhorrent as terrorism. Pay careful attention to the effect the Acoustica closing song has on you.
After watching this film I briefly suspected that its most challenging aspect was that it made you sympathise with the ‘enemy’. I quickly realised that the conflict between my Western values and those of extremists was far less confusing to my moral compass than the way that the film scintillated between tragic drama and farce. I felt that I had been fooled in a manner almost complimentary to my own values, that my knowledge of film genre and convention was keeping me from becoming an extremist too. 8.5