Unpleasant politicking is happening at the moment so I thought I would take my mind off it with a review of Chris Morris’s new movie Four Lions.
In my opinion it is a masterpiece. Chris Morris has always been able to parody well because he understands his source material so well. But with Morris it always goes further than a simple parody. His strength is not just in mastering the content of what he seeks to send up but also the form. For example, and somewhat inevitably, Brasseye was not the seminal piece of work it was merely because it was funny but because it perfectly captured and drew out the key themes and styles of documentary and news broadcasting. Brasseye did not con people into calling crab’s paedophiles or force them to raise parliamentary questions on made up drugs, people fell over themselves to do so because Morris had mastered the form he was exploiting.
Chris Morris continues his mastery of style and content in Four Lions. In it he has not just accurately researched the surprisingly normal and occasionally mundane lives of suicide bombers, but he has done so in a form which is instantly recognisable as a buddy movie. Just as Brasseye or the Day Today looked every bit as glossy and well produced as you would expect this buddy movie has you rooting for the suicide bombers. Whereas Brasseye opens with an elaborate graphical intro characteristic of the genre so Four Lions opens with exactly what you would expect of a movie about suicide bombers; suicide tapes. But the theme isn’t threatening it is jovial and it seems like four young lads just mucking around. This theme is continued when they make their explosive, the first thing they do isn’t plot jihad, it is to set it off in one another’s hands.
The most shocking meeting of form and content in Four Lions comes with the family life of Omar. He is a young father with a supportive wife and an adoring son. Normally in such a movie you would expect his macabre ambition to be kept secret, but this is not that sort of movie, both wife and son are entirely supportive. Three quarters of the way through the movie, on the eve of the fruition of their plans, is a scene casting them as the perfect, contented and above all aspirational family. In any other movie this would be a heart warming scene, and in truth, even though they were united in murderous intent, it was still heart warming. That Chris Morris is a manipulative bastard.
Of course, you have to remember that this is also an incredibly funny movie. The other thing which becomes clear fairly early on is that Morris has a vicious sense of the absurd. A crow is blown up with explosive and a man blows a sheep and himself up by accident. A rocket launcher is (inevitably, but still thoroughly enjoyably) fired backwards by accident towards the Mujahideen and away from a US army drone. Slap stick is evident throughout this movie and it is done incredibly well too.
There is of course political commentary in this. The police kill an innocent man, can’t think were Morris got that idea from. Likewise, the absurdity and inhumanity of extraordinary rendition is cruelly depicted towards the end of the movie as those innocent men are interrogated as though proven guilty. It is a phenomenal movie which had be laughing out loud to the extent that it drew firm glares from those around me. It’s not just the slap stick and jokes that make you laugh, the contradictory emotions Morris forces you too feel force you to giggle too.
It is funny, watch it. You’ll need a laugh.
But then, if you don’t want to listen to me then here’s Chris Morris and the cast…
…here’s Jim Jepps…
…and here’s Charlotte Gore.