Four Lions DVD review

Chris Morris’ debut feature, Four Lions, tackles the difficult topic of terrorism and, Ryan says, it’s a satire that is by turns funny and desperately bleak…

Never one to shy away from potentially controversial targets for his own brand of mordant wit, writer and director Chris Morris has tackled the decidedly thorny issue of terrorism in his first feature, Four Lions.

Infamous for his bizarre radio shows and Brass Eye, in which politicians and celebrities were unwitting victims of a series of bogus charities and causes (the episode where Noel Edmonds talked of the horrific consequences of taking ‘made up drug’ Cake is the kind of guerilla television making we’re unlikely to ever see again), Four Lions sees Morris at his most mercilessly cutting.

While there are undoubtedly moments of levity in Four Lions, and there are isolated scenes that are genuinely hilarious, the movie’s one of the most bleak satires in recent memory.

Riz Ahmed plays Omar, one of a group of four directionless young men who plot to bomb the London Marathon. If that one sentence synopsis sounds like a potentially insensitive recipe for disaster, it isn’t. Morris is far too intelligent and shrewd a writer to play gravely serious subjects such as terrorism, racism and religion for laughs, and the film’s desolate humour is entirely derived from the hopelessly misguided nature of its characters.

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Barry (Nigel Lindsay) is a bellowing, paranoid maniac, and the only Caucasian in the Four Lions coterie of wannabe terrorists, who describes himself as a Muslim despite his refusal to set foot in a mosque. Kavyan Novak is Waj, Omar’s best friend, and so unable to form opinions of his own that he’s perpetually guided by the strange whims of his friends. Adeel Akhtar plays Fessal, arguably the most sympathetic character in the film, an exhausted-looking individual whose harebrained scheme for acquiring an industrial quantity of cleaning chemicals involves buying the stuff from the shop by using a range of different voices, all remarkably similar to his own.

Four Lions is filled from beginning to end with Morris’ stinging, sometimes surreal humour. In one of Barry’s many, many apocalyptic rants, he rails against what he considers to be his religion’s soft attitude to western culture: “The mosques have lost it. We’ve got women talking back. We’ve got people playing stringed instruments. It’s the end of days!”

Morris himself once described the bomb-making efforts of Four Lions as something out of Dad’s Army. In fact, Omar and his group’s excitable, often juvenile approach to their grim mission is like something out of Jackass.

But while there are plenty of uneasy laughs to be gleaned from Four Lions, they come at a price. Moments of absurdity are frequently undercut by an unexpected, occasionally deadly explosion. Morris doesn’t take his subject matter lightly, and refuses to let his audience relax for a moment.

When the group’s mission, which involves dressing up as cartoon characters and detonating themselves among the bustling streets of the Marathon, finally comes around, it’s a tense, awful last act. Morris has managed to create a collection of characters who, despite the dreadful nature of the crimes they’re planning, remain oddly sympathetic throughout.

Morris makes a clear distinction between the Islamic faith and the ridiculous acts of terrorism that Four Lions depicts. Its characters exist in a moral, societal vacuum, desperate to fight for a cause they don’t fully understand, or even necessarily believe in. They’re simply disenfranchised and rudderless, desperate to make some sort of grand, headline grabbing statement, but entirely ignorant of the terrible damage they’re capable of causing in the process.

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The overall feeling, therefore, as the final credits roll on Four Lions, is one of sadness rather than amusement. The film depicts an all too plausible portrait of disenfranchised and paranoid working class men whose ambitions are as pathetic as they are deadly.

Four Lions is not always a comfortable film to watch, but it’s an excellent feature debut from Morris, and cements his reputation as a master of incendiary satire.


Four Lions‘ modest selection of extras includes a handful of deleted scenes (which are all excellent), a cast interview filmed at the Bradford Film Festival, behind-the-scenes footage, and a documentary called Lost Boys, which looks at the lives of Muslim youths up and down the UK.

Of particular interest is an interview with Mohammed Ali Ahmad, who talks eloquently about his arrest under the Terrorism Act in 2008, and his lengthy time in prison before he was finally cleared of preparing for an act of terrorism earlier this year.


4 stars

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Four Lionswill be released on August 30th and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.


3 out of 5