Four Lions is a 2010 British satirical dark comedy film, directed by Chris Morris in his directorial debut, and written by Morris, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong. The film, a jihad satire following a group of homegrown terrorist jihadis from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, stars Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Arsher Ali and Adeel Akhtar.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Chris Morris|
|Produced by||Mark Herbert|
|Written by||Chris Morris|
|Edited by||Billy Sneddon|
|Distributed by||Optimum Releasing|
|Box office||$4.7 million|
A group of radicalised young British Muslim men aspire to be suicide bombers. They are Omar (Riz Ahmed), who is deeply critical of Western society and interventionism; his dim-witted cousin Waj (Kayvan Novak); Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a bad-tempered and extremely rash white convert to Islam; and the naive Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who tries to train crows to be used as bombers. While Omar and Waj travel to an al Qaeda-affiliated training camp in Pakistan, Barry recruits a reluctant fifth member, Hassan (Arsher Ali). The training trip ends in disaster when Omar attempts to shoot down an American drone and accidentally destroys part of the camp; the pair are forced to flee. However, Omar uses the experience to assert authority on his return to Britain. Omar and Waj don't trust Hassan when they first meet him at the airport, but Omar reluctantly chooses to allow him to join the group instead of murdering him to stop him exposing the plan.
The group disagrees about what the target should be. Barry wants to bomb a local mosque as a false flag operation to "radicalise the moderates", but Omar considers this idiotic. Faisal suggests blowing up a branch of the pharmacy chain Boots because it sells contraceptives and tampons, but Omar states it is a not a worthwhile target.
Omar's conservative but pacifist brother visits him and tries to talk him out of doing anything violent; however, Omar and his wife mock him for keeping his wife in a small room and squirt him with water pistols, making him flee.
After the group begins production of the explosives TATP, Hassan is left alone to watch the safehouse as Barry takes Waj and Faisal out to a field for a test-detonation of a small amount of TATP contained in Omar's microwave, using a nearby fireworks show to cover the sound. Omar berates Barry for doing this in his absence, and because Barry was supposed to stay behind at the safehouse since he's likely being watched by the police.
Omar and Barry are still arguing as the group returns to the safehouse, but are interrupted when they find Hassan dancing with an oblivious neighbour (Julia Davis). The group suspects they have been compromised and transport their volatile explosives to a new location in grocery bags. Faisal trips up while crossing a field and is killed in the explosion. This angers Omar, who berates the others and leaves. Faisal's head is found and Omar visits the others to tell them. They reconcile, and Omar decides to target the upcoming London Marathon due to having access to mascot costumes, which they use to conceal the explosives. Meanwhile, armed police raid Omar's brother's house.
The group drive to London in their costumes and prepare to attack. Waj expresses doubts about the morality of their plot, but Omar convinces him to go through with it. A police officer approaches the group, but is satisfied and leaves after a brief conversation. Hassan loses his nerve and tries to alert the officer, but is killed when Barry detonates his bomb remotely. The remaining three panic and run away, and the police start searching for them.
Omar has a change of heart, feeling guilt about manipulating the easily led Waj into dying for a cause he doesn't understand and attempts to prevent the attack. Police snipers receive Omar's description and shoot at him as he attempts to blend in with the runners, but mistakenly kill a bystander in a similar costume instead. Waj is cornered by police in a kebab shop and takes the staff hostage. Omar contacts Waj from his mobile phone and convinces him to let all but one of the hostages go. Barry finds Omar during the phonecall, snatches the phone and swallows the SIM card, however, as Barry begins to choke, a well-meaning passer-by attempts to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre, forcing Omar to flee before Barry's explosives are inadvertently detonated.
Omar hurries to a nearby mobile phone store to buy a new SIM card to contact Waj, but leaves empty handed due to the frustratingly slow employees and convoluted signup process.
Omar spots a colleague (Craig Parkinson) and borrows his phone. He attempts to talk Waj down, but his call is interrupted when the police charge in and kill the remaining hostage whom they mistake for Waj. Confused, Waj detonates his bomb, killing everyone in the kebab shop.
Distraught, Omar walks into a nearby Boots pharmacy and detonates his bomb. In an epilogue, it is revealed that the police later arrested Omar's innocent brother as a terrorist; that they deflect responsibility for shooting the hostage and bystander; and that Omar unknowingly killed Osama Bin Laden when misfiring his rocket in Pakistan.
- Riz Ahmed as Omar, a security guard and the only slightly competent jihadi in his terrorist cell.
- Kayvan Novak as Waj, the cousin of Omar; although stupid, he has enough sense to consult Omar or Barry before making decisions.
- Nigel Lindsay as Barry / Azzam Al-Britani, a rash convert with an explosive temper and the founder of the "Islamic State of Tinsley".
- Adeel Akhtar as Faisal, a complete idiot who always trusts Barry. Has a father who may have dementia as he sees "creatures" that are not there.
- Arsher Ali as Hassan Malik, a rapper who joins the cell after Barry witnesses him pretending to blow himself up at a conference.
- Craig Parkinson as Matt, a security guard and Omar's coworker.
- Preeya Kalidas as Sofia, Omar's wife and a nurse in a local hospital.
- Julia Davis as Alice
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Ed, a Special Branch Negotiator
- Alex Macqueen as Malcolm Storge, a member of the Counter Terrorism Strategy Unit
- Kevin Eldon as Sniper
- Darren Boyd as Sniper
- Mohammad Aqil as Mahmood, Omar's young son.
- Wazim Takir as Ahmed, Omar's devoutly conservative but pacifist brother.
- William El-Gardi as Khalid
Morris spent three years researching the project, speaking to terrorism experts, police, the secret service, and imams, as well as ordinary Muslims, and writing the script in 2007. In a separate interview, he asserts that the research predated the 7 July 2005 London bombings:
It was an attempt to figure it out, to ask, "What's going on with this?" This [the "War on Terror"] is something that's commanding so much of our lives, shaping so much of our culture, turning this massive political wheel. I was wondering what this new game was all about. But then 7/7 hit that with a fairly large impact, in that we were suddenly seeing all these guys with a Hovis accent. Suddenly you're not dealing with an amorphous Arab world so much as with British people who have been here quite a long time and who make curry and are a part of the landscape. So you've got a double excavation going on.
Morris suggested in a mass email, titled "Funding Mentalism", that fans could contribute between £25 and £100 each to the production costs of the film and would appear as extras in return. Funding was secured in October 2008 from Film 4 Productions and Warp Films, with Derrin Schlesinger & Mark Herbert producing. Filming began in Sheffield in May 2009.
Morris has described the film as a farce, which exposes the "Dad's Army side to terrorism". During the making of the film, the director sent the script to former Guantánamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg. Begg has said that he found nothing in the script that would be offensive to British Muslims. The actor Riz Ahmed also contacted Begg, to ask whether the subject matter was "too raw". When the film was completed, Begg was given a special screening and said that he enjoyed it.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010 and was short-listed for the festival's World Cinema Narrative prize. Introducing the film's premiere, Morris said: "I feel in a weird way that this is a good-hearted film. It's not a hate film, so I would hope that aspect would come through."
Despite its acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, Four Lions failed to find a distributor in the U.S. for nine months, until the newly formed Drafthouse Films picked it up. The film had a limited release in the US on 5 November 2010.
Four Lions received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Certified Fresh" score of 83%, based on 134 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's consensus reads, "Its premise suggests brazenly tasteless humor, but Four Lions is actually a smart, pitch-black comedy that carries the unmistakable ring of truth." Metacritic gives the film a score of 68 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
The Daily Telegraph wrote that "[Chris Morris's] evocations of the claustrophobic mundanity of the Muslims' lives, their querulous banter, their flimsily pick 'n' mix approach to the Koran all feel painfully, brilliantly real." The Daily Express rated Four Lions 4/5 and praised the performances in particular, calling the film "brilliantly cast with all the actors displaying sharp comic timing and both [Riz] Ahmed and [Kayvan] Novak also bringing out the touching humanity of their characters."
Upon its screening at Sundance, the Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter gave the film extremely positive reviews, the latter describing the film as "a brilliant takedown of the imbecility of fanaticism" drawing comparisons with This Is Spinal Tap and The Three Stooges.
Amongst the reviewers that gave the film negative and mixed reviews were Nigel Andrews of the Financial Times, who called the film a "spectacular miss" and The Guardian's Jeremy Kay, who wrote "as a satire on terror, Four Lions seems to be a missed opportunity". Andrew Pulver, also writing for The Guardian, gave the film a more favourable review, stating that "Chris Morris is still the most incendiary figure working in the British entertainment industry."
The UK premiere at the National Media Museum in Bradford was followed by a question and answer session with Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, three of the principal actors, and two of the producers. Morris stated that he does not find the film at all controversial and that attempting to cause controversy is "one of the most boring things you can do". Morris also gave a talk introducing the film at a summer 2010 screening at Latitude Festival in Suffolk.
Despite an initial release on just 115 screens across the UK, the film was successful at the box office on its opening weekend, generating the highest site average of all the new releases (£5,292) and making a total of £609,000. According to the Official Top 10 UK Film Chart (7–9 May 2010), Four Lions was placed at sixth, behind Iron Man 2, Furry Vengeance, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hot Tub Time Machine and The Back-up Plan. Due to its popularity, Optimum Releasing increased the number of screens showing the film to 200.
The lead actors, Kayvan Novak and Nigel Lindsay, were both nominated for Best Comedy Performance in Film at the British Comedy Awards 2010. Kayvan Novak went on to win the award, thanking all his "brothers"—referring to his fellow actors in Four Lions.
At the BAFTAs 2011, Chris Morris won the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. He beat competition from The Arbor, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Monsters and Skeletons.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Four Lions|
- Official U.S. website
- Four Lions on IMDb
- Four Lions at Rotten Tomatoes
- Four Lions at Metacritic
- Four Lions at British Comedy Guide
- Chris Morris's Four Lions: exclusive clip from the 'jihadist comedy' (guardian.co.uk)
- Podcast interview with Chris Morris (daily.greencine.com)
- "'Four Lions': Al-Qaida In Clown Suits". All Things Considered. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- "A Comedy About Terrorists?". Tell Me More. 12 November 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2011.