Review: Four Lions (2010)

fourlionsDirected by Chris Morris

Starring Kayvan Novak, Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar

Ever since the 2005 al Qaeda attacks on London, there has been a siege mentality in the UK. That makes first-time director Morris’ broad comedy about homegrown jihadists in the post-industrial English city of Sheffield so timely and essential. This extraordinary combination of high farce and lo-fi filmmaking is a textured and incisive examination of what drives ordinary people to become suicide bombers – with added exploding crows for giggles.

Controversial British satirist Morris made his reputation as a ruthless critic of the media and government on TV and radio, As he explained during the films debut at SXSW, even with his reputation this was a difficult project on which to sell backers, noting that  they saw it as “delicious like a lobster and revolting like a locust.”

However, shifting to the big screen allows him to broaden his message and his character’s humanity. The eponymous four lions – self-proclaimed jihadist Omar (Ahmed), his idiot best mate Waj (Novak), Fessal (Akhtar), and lunatic convert Barry (Lindsay) – are pure Ealing Comedy buffoons. But like that legendary studio’s best output, there’s sharp social commentary as Morris deflates both terrorism and the war on terror. As the director has put it, “Most loud bangs aren’t bombs. They’re mopeds backfiring.”

During the four year development process, Morris’ wife kindly told him, “Even if it’s shit, well done. At least you made a film.” He’s done far more than that. For dealing with such a contentious issue, Morris has lifted himself above the immediate fray. His five wannabe-Jihadists are actually played by three Muslims, an Iranian Christian, and a Jew, giving him the film, as he said during its SXSW 2010 debut, that could be funded “either by the CIA or a mosque.”


(a version of this review previously appeared at

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