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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Ay' Up, You Unbelieving Kufr Bastards

For political satire, watch In The Loop. For skewed belief and amateur terrorism 'satire', watch Four Lions. I did. And it was brilliant on many levels. Chris Morris' tale of a band of well-meaning (from their point of view) yet ultimately doomed mujahideen with a plan to blow... something... up as a "flip you, ya' bastards" to the non-believers. 

And as unattractive the subject matter, as unlovable these characters should be, it just isn't and they aren't. Okay, so when it comes down to it this is a comedy film about the Laurels and the Hardys of Islamic Fundamentalism - and it delivers awkward laughs aplenty. But there's more to this than "a cheeky giggle at something you know shouldn't really be funny". The characters make you more and more aware that they really believe - just like real suicide bombers - that what they are about to do will not only make things better, but give them a fast track to "the rubber dingy rapids - no queueing" - Paradise.

Omar believes. He really does. His wife supports him and, through a twisted take on The Lion King, he makes sure his young son understands the fight. Omar's brother believes too, though he wants peace and understanding - but he's stuck in the woman-hating, study-group, actionless past of Islam. He needs to get with the times! Waj believes. He thinks... he's not really sure. But Omar will stamp out any doubt in "the special-needs donkey's" mind - after all, God is in the heart, the Devil whispers in the brain... That is, unless the devil pulls a swap... Waj doesn't really understand, so he just does what he's told. Fessal believes. But he doesn't really want to die for those beliefs - he's got crows for that! Shame. Hassan sort of believes, but suicide bombing and terrorism is cool! Even if it's fake suicide bombing. Now, Barry! Barry believes... but he's too avant garde a bomber for Omar to see the results a bombed mosque would reap. They really are a "Mr Fuck Bean" operation... with lots of real explosives and a friend running the London Marathon.

The film flits from slapstick stupidity to hard-hitting dismay at just how far some people will go for a book. I found myself laughing out loud at poor Fessal's crow. Crying inwardly at the tale of "Simba's Jihad against Scar" and wondering how and why Omar and Sophia ever could, or would ever want to give up their clearly love-filled marriage for a fight that will never - no matter what's blown up - change the way things are. The movie, it's no spoiler to say, doesn't have a very happy ending... whether that means our antiheroes fail in their plot or that they succeed, you'll have to watch to see. If you leave this movie JUST laughing then you've missed the point entirely. If you leave thinking, but NOT laughing, you've missed the point again. 

As the film draws towards a chaotic and sudden finale, I found myself missing characters from earlier and hating the ones I laughed at most. And that was how it was meant to be, clearly. Throw in a couple of interesting cameos - Benedict Cumberbatch's "virgin negotiator", Kevin Eldon and Darren Boyd's ridiculous police snipers ("Is a Honey Monster a Wookie?") and Julia Davis' wonderful "girl next door with a twist" and you realise that this really is a British film for the times we live in. It's a difficult watch - you'll find yourself laughing and clapping and rooting for the main Lions, then realising that these are the same type of man who destroyed so many lives in London on 7/7. It sends a chill down your spine and makes you wonder how anyone could think this a good idea. 

And in true Morris fashion there are plenty of clever nods. I won't list them, just watch. And you really should, you know, because Four Lions is really something else. Comparisons in tone with In The Loop are valid, so if you liked that, you'll love this. One thing, though; Try not to miss a word of dialogue. The script is solid gold.

The whole movie is, come to that.