First Night: Four Lions, Sundance Film Festival

3.00

Morris explodes myths of terrorism

The Comedian Chris Morris made his name on radio and television by courting controversy, and his incendiary humour is paraffin-fuelled in his directorial feature film debut about a terrorist cell situated in Sheffield.

The protagonists are loosely based on the 7/7 bombers, but rather than being hardline fundamentalists, the bombers in this movie could easily have stepped out of the television comedies Citizen Smith or Dad's Army.

There is something quite apt about depicting suicide bombers as bumbling fools, nonetheless Morris saves his best jokes and most cutting criticism for the police. He calls the boys in blue to task for their poor surveillance techniques and woeful communication skills, and the funniest skit of the movie is a brilliant send-up of the Jean Charles de Menezes Tube shooting.

The tone of the comedy is set in the opening scene, which sees an attempt to make a homemade video claiming responsibility for terrorist activity. Immediately the inadequacies of the cell are highlighted. Especially foolhardy is the Islamic convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a character seemingly based on the shoe-bomber Robbie Reid. His cohort Fessal (Adhil Akhtar) is shown with a box on his head claiming that it is haraam (against Islamic law) to put his image on camera. While Waj (Kayvan Novac) just has several screws loose.

Morris has in the past criticised both Martin Amis and Abu Hamza for taking Islamic writings out of context and using them to incite hatred, and this trait is a feature of all his characters. Indeed Morris does a grand job of treading the fine line of criticising the bombers without being offensive to Islam.

The leader of the group, Omar (Riz Ahmed, who made his own droll contribution to sending up the terror threat with his song "Post 9/11 Blues"), disillusioned by his amateur comrades, goes to Pakistan for a training camp run by his cousin. He takes Waj along for the ride, and so ridiculous are the pair that they're soon ostracised at the training camp. In an attempt to prove themselves worthy of being in the company they try to shoot down a US drone, and only succeed in killing a terrorist leader. Morris always ensures that comic accidents push these Sheffield lads into terrorism rather than any great link with al-Qa'ida.

On their speedy return to England they discover that Barry has recruited another member to their unit, Hassan (Asher Ali), who is first seen making a scene singing a rap before pretending to explode a bomb at a community meeting discussing the terror issue with the local MP.

But this moment signals a rather lacklustre second act of the film, in which polemics replace humour. The introduction of Omar's traditional brother trying to be the voice of reason falls flat, as does Omar's bedtime stories to his son, teaching him that suicide bombing is good. It's when the comedy is designed to offend rather than as commentary that it doesn't work.

Just as the action seems to be heading into a cul-de-sac, Fessal dies in a training accident when he trips over a sheep. His death forces the remaining four lions into action as they decide to wear fancy dress and blow themselves up during the London marathon.

Morris does a great job of balancing poignancy and comedy in a hard-hitting finale that shows a humanity and observational brilliance that surpasses everything else in this movie. In doing so he exposes a myth of terrorist bombers being trained assassins but instead exposes them as being confused young men.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian, actor and broadcaster Sanjeev Bhaskar

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor