Sundance 2010 review: FOUR LIONS - A Comedy about Terrorism

Directed By: Chris Morris

Starring: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, and Adeel Akhtar


Four Lions  tells the story of a group of British jihadists who push their abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point. As the wheels fly off, and their competing ideologies clash, what emerges is an emotionally engaging (and entirely plausible) farce. In a storm of razor-sharp verbal jousting and large-scale set pieces, Four Lions  is a comic tour de force; it shows that—while terrorism is about ideology—it can also be about idiots. 


You would think a comedy about terrorism wouldn’t really work. Would people accept using terrorism as a form of comedy? This is a very strong issue with people, and we’ve have never seen terrorism viewed in this kind of light before. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see this movie. I forced myself to see because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to or not, but I’m sure glad I did because this movie was hilariously fantastic! Definitely the funniest film that I’ve seen up at Sundance. It had me laughing throughout most of the film.  

This is a subject that we’ve seen seriously tackled in other films and documentaries, but being able to see this type of subject matter is a comedic light was a very nice change of pace. I think it’s great that the director of the film Chris Morris was able to actually see the humor  in this crazy extremist world. What makes this movie even more funny and interesting, is the fact that he did three years of research for this film and had meetings with everyone from  imams to ex-mujahedeen, then their is a wealth of surveillance material from major trials that he went through. He took all of the information he gathered and showed the the characters in the story not as unfathomably alien or evil. Instead, it portrays them as human beings, who, as we all know, are innately ridiculous.

The director gives an insight on how he came up with the idea for this film and why he did. “I was reading about a plot to ram a U.S. warship in the dead of night with the target moored just offshore, the cell assembled at the quayside, slipped their boat into the water and stacked it with explosives. It sank. I laughed. I wasn’t expecting that. You know the hamburg cell was lead by Mohamed Atta - but did you know he was so strict that the other plotters called him “the ayatollah”? That every time he formed an Islamic discussion group he was so critical he fired them all within a week? The unfathomable world of extremism seemed to contain elements of farce. Cases in the high court and meetings with Muslims only confirmed the impression. People go to training camps in the wrong clothes, forget how to make bombs, fight with each other and then fight again over who just won the fight, volunteer for the mujahedeen and get told to go home and “do the knitting”. They talk about who’s cooler - bin Laden or Johnny Depp. They look more like I looked, the more reality played against type. Then the penny dropped. A cell of terrorists is a bunch of blokes. A small group of fired up lads planning cosmic war from a bedsit - not a bad pressure cooker for jokes.”

It worked! The movie was a great comedy full of great quotable one-liners. I imagine this film won’t be a huge financial success but it definitely has the makings of a cult classic. I hope the move gets distribution because I think it’s a film people need to see and enjoy. I think there are going to be a great deal of people out there that are going to think this film is going to shock and offend, especially Islamic beliefs. Before I saw I was a bit hesitant, and unless the people go out and see this movie that is exactly what they are going to think. But it doesn’t do that. The movie was made to make us laugh, entertain us, surprise us, and even move us. 

I hope you get the opportunity to go out and see this movie because I honestly think your gonna love it.

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