|Directed by||Chris Morris|
|Produced by||Mark Herbert
|Written by||Chris Morris
|Edited by||Billy Sneddon|
|Distributed by||Optimum Releasing
|Running time||97 minutes|
Four Lions is a 2010 British dark comedy film. It is the feature film debut of director Chris Morris, written by Morris, Sam Bain, and Jesse Armstrong. The film is a jihad satire following a group of homegrown terrorist jihadis from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.
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 imperialism; his dim-witted friend, 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 go to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, Barry recruits a reluctant fifth member, Hassan (Arsher Ali). The visit to the training camp ends in disaster, with Omar misfiring a rocket backwards that kills fellow jihadists; however, he uses the experience to assert authority on his return to Britain.
The group begins acquiring materials for making improvised explosive devices but disagree about what to target. 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, but Omar states it is a not a worthwhile target. Hassan allows an oblivious neighbour (Julia Davis) into their safe house; the group think they have been compromised and transport their volatile explosives to a new location in grocery bags. Faisal accidentally trips in a field while carrying the explosives and blows up. This causes a row among the remaining four, who disband; but they reconcile, and Omar decides to target the upcoming London Marathon.
Wearing mascot costumes to conceal their explosives—Omar as the Honey Monster; Waj as a man riding an ostrich; Barry as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle; and Hassan as an inverted clown —they prepare to attack. Waj expresses doubts about the rectitude of the plot, but Omar convinces him to go ahead. Hassan loses his nerve and tries to alert nearby police officers, but Barry detonates his bomb using a mobile phone, killing Hassan. This causes the police to search for the remaining three.
Omar realises he has led an unwitting Waj into something he does not want to do and tries to change his mind. Police attempt to shoot Omar as he mingles with other runners but, instead, shoot a bystander dressed as a Wookiee. Omar eventually contacts Waj from his mobile phone but is attacked by Barry, who swallows the phone's SIM card. However, Barry begins to choke on it, causing a passer-by to carry out the Heimlich manoeuvre and detonate his bomb.
Waj is cornered by police and takes a kebab shop hostage. Omar then borrows a phone and attempts to talk him down, but his call is interrupted when the police raid the kebab shop, in which they kill a hostage whom they mistake for Waj. Confused, Waj detonates his bomb, destroying the place. Distraught, Omar walks into an empty Boots and blows himself up. It is revealed later that the police have arrested Omar's innocent and peaceful Muslim brother as a terrorist; that they deflect responsibility for shooting the bystander; and that Omar and Waj killed Osama Bin Laden when Omar misfired his rocket in Pakistan.
- Riz Ahmed as Omar
- Kayvan Novak as Waj
- Nigel Lindsay as Barry
- Adeel Akhtar as Faisal
- Arsher Ali as Hassan
- Craig Parkinson as Matt
- Preeya Kalidas as Sofia
- Julia Davis as Alice
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Negotiator
- Alex MacQueen as Malcolm Storge MP
- Kevin Eldon as Sniper
- Darren Boyd as Sniper
- Mohammad Aqil as Mahmood
- 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.
The project was originally rejected by both the BBC and Channel 4 as being too controversial. 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 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 Chris 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 US for nine months until finally newly formed Drafthouse Films picked it up. The film had a limited release in the US on 5 November 2010.
Four Lions received mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Certified Fresh" score of 81% based on 110 reviews with an average rating of 7.2 out of 10. The site's general consensus is that its "premise suggests brazenly tasteless humour, but Four Lions is actually a smart, pitch-black comedy that carries the unmistakable ring of truth."
The Daily Telegraph wrote "[Chris Morris's] evocations of the claustrophobic mundanity of the Muslims' lives, their quarrelous 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, 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".
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.
As of 8 August 2010, Four Lions grossed £2,932,366 at the UK box office.
As of 24 February 2011, Four Lions the worldwide gross was US$4,658,570.
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. Site
- Four Lions at the Internet Movie Database
- Four Lions at Rotten Tomatoes
- Four Lions at the 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.