Instant Watching: Four Lions – A Terrorist Comedy?

In her weekly column, Instant Watching, Christie Dean talks about recently produced obscure and independent films that are made available through Netflix’s Instant Watch feature.

The last three weeks I’ve talked about movies that primarily dealt with family and staying true to yourself. I decided to switch things up a bit this time around by watching Four Lions, a British dark comedy written and directed by Christopher Morris.

Four Lions is about a small group of nominal Muslim men living in Britain who dream about their roles in planning and executing jihad. The problem is that they are cripplingly inept in terms of any practical knowledge of combat or bomb-making, they can’t agree on a terrorist target, and they are just plain idiotic. Instead of using terrorism as a tool to advance their religious beliefs, the men are instead seeking to bring glory and fame to themselves individually and reap the rewards that they believe will come to them in the afterlife. Even though the bumbling characters provided a good amount of comic relief, the subject matter is so controversial and serious that most of the time I wouldn’t allow myself to laugh at what was going on–and I felt guilty when I did. On top of that, one of the more unsettling features of Four Lions is that, consciously, I didn’t want to root for any of the characters at all. I wanted to see redemption and hope, and by the time it was even hinted at, I knew that it was too late for the characters. This gave the film’s conclusion a stark sense of realism that couldn’t be diluted by any humorous moments remaining in the film, which was most likely the director’s intention.

After I finished watching Four Lions, I asked myself a couple of questions–as a Christian, was it right for me to laugh at some misguided Muslim characters who glorified evil actions? Would I have found a similar film about some severely confused Christians humorous? I’m not entirely sure. Also, can a movie about terrorists who have very real intentions to harm others be funny? Are we even ready to laugh at something like this yet? One of my concerns before watching Four Lions was that I thought approaching this subject from the perspective of finding a comedic side was, as they say, “too soon”–many of the emotional wounds created by terrorist attacks in the last ten years have not completely healed. All that to say, Chris Morris took a big risk by writing and directing his debut film about dim-witted efforts of jihad, and I have to admit that he succeeded in putting together an intelligent, sometimes hilarious, and altogether bold piece of work.

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  • Wes

    I found it hilarious… but then I’m a Brit. I think this highlights the fundamental difference between how the British deal with tragedy and how Americans do. We downplay and make light of these things.tradgedy