James Reviews Chris Morris’ Four Lions [Theatrical Review]

When it comes to horrible villains in the films, terrorists are the new Nazis. Especially in this day and age, after the attack on America on September 11th, 2001, the country has this preconceived notion as to what they think they know about terrorists in general, and what they truly know. This happened in the 1940’s with the Nazis as well, these ultimate villains that became almost cartoon like (and were made fun of in Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons as well), terrorists are the villain of choice these last two decades or so in action movies. Communist Cold War villains and Nazis will never go out of style, but this was the new threat to our country so why not make them into caricatures as well, as these one dimensional ‘kill the infidel’ villains we know them to be?

This is where Chris Morris’ new comedy, Four Lions, comes into conversation. When our very own Travis saw this film back at Sundance, he said it was as if the Marx Bros. made a film about terrorists. This was my only nugget of information I had on the film when I was going into it. That and that Tim League’s newly formed Drafthouse Films had bought the rights for distribution in the United States. This double dose of info had me very interested and was high on my radar of films this year. And I couldn’t think of a better film as a debut film for Drafthouse Films.

The film tells the story of a group of young Muslims in Sheffield who just so happen to be terrorists. The group’s leader, Omar (Riz Ahmed), has a wife and a child who he shows his blooper reel of when they attempt to film their propigandha videos. His best friend Waj (Kayvan Novak), is a bit slow but means well and will more or less do whatever Omar tells him. We have the simple Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who wants to use crows as flying suicide bombers. There’s new recruit Hassan (Arsher Ali), who is recruited by Barry (Nigel Lindsay), who is a convert to Islam and believes he is the most Jihad of them all.

Omar gets the call to go to Pakistan to train to be a proper terrorist and brings Waz along. Through a series of unfortunate events, they need to come back to England sooner than intended and convince the group that they’ve been given the go ahead to radicalize and to become what they’ve always wanted: suicide bombers. Now to pick a target and blow it up. But through it all, tension mounts, random ups and downs and a death almost stops them but somehow it all comes to an ending that you might think you saw coming, but is shocking to say the least.

To tell you about plot details would be asinine, considering a comedy should be truly enjoyed. And the only way to do so is to go in, blindly, and let the laughs come forth. The film’s funniest bits will not be seen in any clips, mainly because it is all organic, with the characters just working off one another, fueling the fire throughout and building each scene and each laugh bigger and better than the last. It’s an absurd look at what many people fear, and that’s what makes this film unique. Pushing the envelope is something most brilliant people in comedy like to do, but this isn’t in your face about it. Chris Morris and company know full well there’s tension when it comes to the whole terrorist angle, and instead of faltering or painting a stereotypical picture, they use this canvas and give us a laugh out loud comedy with characters you care about.

This film is a vital point in cinematic history, not only for being a top comedic film with brilliant performances by all involved, especially by the main troupe of terrorists themselves; Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar and Arsher Ali, but also for the way the content is portrayed. It never strays into blatant mockery because they took the time to craft this film and showcase all the talents involved. This film never disappoints, and instead is one of the funniest films in the last 10 years. It is truly an important film and one that most will pass on by when it is release, and ultimately that is saddest of all.

Our very own Travis George said, after seeing Four Lions at Sundance, that this film is if The Marx Bros. made a film about terrorism. I’d go a few steps further and say it’s if The Marx Bros. made a film with The Three Stooges and had it written by Monty Python and directed by Carl Reiner in his heyday. Come to think of it, I have a better comparison. This film is Chris Morris’, through and through, and you can tell the research that went into it. It never shies away from offending whoever but will ultimately make you think about the world in a different way. And how many comedies can we truly say do that for us?

Check out the trailer and an unused scene below. November 5th can’t come soon enough.

Find all of the official information about FOUR LIONS, and when it will be coming to a down near you, at DrafthouseFilms.com.


  • Thanks for whetting my appetite even more to see this film. I’m inclined to agree with what you said about Four Lions being an important film, just on the basis of its subject matter and the cultural confrontation it sets up for everyone who sees it. Satire has a unique ability to puncture hypocrisy and reveal our blind spots, if we give it the chance.

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