Essay on The Empire Masterpiece # 131

Essay on The Empire Masterpiece # 131

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the EMPIRE masterpiece #131
FOUR LIONS
2010. OUT: NOW CERT:15 WORDS: ANNA OLNEY-SMITH

A comedy…about terrorism? Queue the unconvincing stares. Four Lions, at first (disbelieving) glance, seems like another dark satirical comedy that falls short of expectations and raises more disappointment than laughs. The director of this ground-breaking film, amidst the other flops of its kind (think ), is Chris Morris; who, along with Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong wrote the film itself. Morris has recently amassed an impressive body of work in the UK as a satirical writer, director, actor and all-round prankster, and is perhaps best known is his current-affairs TV satires Brass Eye and The Day Today, or in his most recent appearance as managerial madman Denholm Reynholm in The IT Crowd.

So, when news came of a new Chris Morris movie we all expected his usual tongue-in-cheek, controversial take on a current affairs topic. What no one was expecting or searching for, was a caustic comedy on terrorism, no less. Not least one that we actually found funny.

Morris is notorious for his controversial takes on topics few other directors would dare to attempt. The creation of Four Lions began three years ago, when Morris read a story about five jihadis planning to ram a US warship. They packed their launch with explosives. They stepped in. It sank. He found himself laughing, and he immediately thought the subject had potential for satire, and recruited two other writers. First, Jesse Armstrong (‘In the Loop’, ‘The Thick of It’) then Sam Bain (worked with Armstrong to write ‘Peep Show’). A dream team for award-winning satirical film, if there ever was one. From then on the idea of Four Lions was born. Morris refused to release such a controversial f...


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...gnant scene – he sells martyrdom to his young son by telling him a bedtime story – Lion King with a jihadist twist. Ahmed plays this role with a kind of expertise that is rare. He is able to show the many sides of Omar – the joker, the family man, and the terrorist; but act each with a sort of sensitivity that make us feel sympathy towards the not-so-terrorising terrorist.

This film won’t be the start of a successful new franchise of merchandise, or a spin-off TV show, but there is no denying Four Lions is its own kind of Masterpiece. Morris has something to be proud of here; yes, it’s set to offend many who see it, but for those who can look past the stereotypes and dark, potentially offensive humour will see his main message; the only sane response to terrorism is laughter. And that - we cannot disagree, is not just what he is known for, but what he does best.

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