Four Lions

Given enough time, the most horrid of experiences can become funny—when we look back on our stupid decisions, our terrible choices and our misinformed actions, cringes can eventually turn to smiles as we reflect on our idiocy. Four Lions makes us laugh at terrorists and the concept of jihad, even as they remain an ever-present threat in reality, and suggests that comedy might be a far better weapon than any bunker buster.

A band of four Muslim Sheffielders are plotting an attack against the perversions of Western society: Omar (Riz Ahmed), the sensible leader of sorts; Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a boorish white convert; Waj (Kayvan Novak), a clueless simpleton; and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), a bumbling fool. Along the way, they travel to Pakistan and back all while plotting ever-more ridiculous schemes. Barry wants to blow up a mosque to radicalize moderates, Waj wants to destroy a chemist because they help facilitate birth control (and thus promiscuity) and Faisal wants to train crows to fly bombs to their targets. You get the idea.

This meeting of dark comedy and ethnic humor is absurd, original and bitingly satirical (What else would you expect of director Chris Morris, whose infamous 1990s TV show Brass Eye set new levels of offense and comedic gold.) The media often leads us to believe that terrorists are fanatical, mindless and soulless monsters. But then you have someone like Omar, a modern Muslim dressed in modern clothes, married to a beautiful woman with a young son. Yet it is his brother, a devout, peaceful Muslim, who gets targeted by the police because he’s the one always in religious togs. All that time spent making the true terrorists seem ordinary, like any group of friends we’re with, is what sets the film apart when it ends.

The manner in which the film concludes elevates it to a poignant piece of social commentary. It makes you laugh, shake your head at stereotypes, question what you think you know about terrorists, and fully splays out the silliness and futility of terrorism—all at the same time. Simply put, it will blow you away.