Christopher Morris is no stranger to controversy. You just need to look at his Channel 4 series Brass Eye to realise that he is not one to shy away from subjects that a lot of people would avoid like the plague. So the news that his feature film debut would be a satire on Jihad fundamentalism shouldn’t really be a shock.
But is it a case of a shocking subject matter just for the ratings or is it actually any good?
Four Lions tells the story of four young Muslim men from Sheffield. Having become radicalised, Omar (Riz Ahmed) has decided to travel to Pakistan & train to be a soldier at a terrorist training camp. To his best friend, Waj (Kayvan Novak) this sounds like a great idea – which is hardly a surprise as Omar tends to tell Waj what he’s thinking anyway. Opposed to this idea is Barry (Nigel Lindsey), a convert to Islam who thinks that they are already ready & that they need to strike now at the enemy. And the final member of the group is Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) who is fully prepared to blow himself up, & has the skills to do so, but can’t at the moment as his father is sick once again & needs him.
While Omar & Waj are in Pakistan, Barry recruits a fifth member, Hassan (Arsher Ali), & starts to plan an attack on a Mosque to radicalise the rest of the Muslim world – a plan that Omar is completely opposed to.
Now these five need to locate a more fitting target, if they can stop fighting amongst themselves long enough to do so.
Having been a fan of Christopher Morris for quite a few years, it was with a lot of interest that I sat down to watch Four Lions. It’s not an easy subject matter, by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt that if anyone could pull it off it would be him.
And yet, after watching it, I’m still not sure if he did or not.
There isn’t really any fault with the film. The main characters, as they’re really the only ones who make any kind of impact on the screen whatsoever (apart from the Police at the end of the film, for completely different reasons), are watchable & there is no attempt to make them anything but believable.
It’s not that Morris has tried to make them sympathetic, it’s more that he hasn’t tried to demonise them & instead has just made them “normal” & believable.
The script canters along at a fair old pace, except in a few instances where it slows right down once or twice, & for the most part it is amusing – not really laugh out loud funny (except in a few instances) but it is very clever & the interactions between the five main characters really does feel like a real relationship between five people who have known each other for a while.
This is a film with a message, one where instead of the faceless demons coming to destroy our world we are instead presented with the people next door who we talk to on a daily basis being the ones who might well bring our world to an end, & it is this message that hits harder than any other, even when he is pointing out the absurdity in any religious zealism, no matter where it is from.
A humourous look at fanaticism, but not a laugh a minute, an intelligent & thought provoking film of our times & an absurd comedy of errors. Christopher Morris’ first film is all of these things & none of these things. It won’t be to all tastes, but I think it is an important film for our time & has a message that is more important than you might think, but also a lot closer to home.
The tranfer onto Blu-Ray is pretty flawless, to be honest. Skin tones are realistic, blacks & contrasts are good & the detail is pin sharp. There isn’t a lot of variation in colour throughout the film but it does look gorgeous.
This isn’t a Blu-Ray to drag out for showing off your audio setup. The soundtrack is pretty understated, with not a huge amount going on apart from dialogue, but that is crystal clear at all times, so in that respect it is a very good audio track.
I unfortunately didn’t have time to delve into the Extras available on the disc, but what you get are:
Lost Boys documentary
Bradford Film Festival Premier featurette
Mo Ali Interview
This is a film that I am still not 100% sure about. There is a great deal to enjoy & think about here, but I am still not sure how much I actually enjoyed the film overall.
That being said, I think this is a very important film which has had a loving, & very thoughtful, crafting & I think that it deserves as wide an audience as possible.