Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Empire's New Tom Cruise Cover
The Jameson Empire Awards 2014
Vote: The Greatest 301 Movies Of All Time!
Rebecca Hall:
My Movie Life

The actress picks the movies that shaped her
Mountain Dew Green Screen
Register Now to see X-MEN First Class!
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!

Posted on Sunday January 24, 2010, 10:55 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!

It's late at night, so I'll skip Teenage Paparazzo and Howl for now to concentrate on the world premiere of Chris Morris's directing debut, Four Lions, which premiered tonight at the Egyptian theatre. I won't keep you on tenterhooks, I thought it was great; it's a slow burn to start, but I think that once it has bedded in, Four Lions will prove to be one of the most original, provocative and enduring comedies of the early 21st century. I'll admit now that I haven't always been a diehard Morris fan. The Day Today, with its flashes of brilliance, often left me cold, and, to be honest, I'm not sure I ever saw a second of Jam. Brass Eye, though, got my attention, and I must be the only person in the world that loves Nathan Barley. Like, really, really, really loves Nathan Barley.

So, in a nutshell, I didn't go in thinking of Morris as the second coming, and I feel comfortable in saying that if you had high hopes for this film, I really don't think you'll be disappointed. For me, the closest equivalent I can think of is a classic Ealing movie, something like Kind Hearts And Coronets, or, to a lesser extent, The Ladykillers. People think nowadays of Ealing comedies as quaint, starchily witty affairs, but far from it: though those films professed to have very rigid ideas of right and wrong, part of the fun of them was the murkiness of the shades of grey in between. My favourite example of this is in Kind Hearts, when the vengeful Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) murders the nicest, most gentle member of the D'Ascoyne family (all played by Alec Guinness), simply because he has to. We, the audience, know this, and even though we feel sympathy for his victim, the first impulse we get when we see his shed blow up is not to feel shocked – it's to laugh.

The genius of Ealing was that the viewer's conscience was always allowed back into the room later, like an intellectual backdraft. And this is what Morris is working with here. Though it's not technically very flash, Four Lions has an intelligent and emotional subtlety that could be risky for its immediate commercial appeal. Morris doesn't labour his satire, he concentrates on character, just as Ealing did, with the result that Four Lions is the most engaging and fuzzy-warm film about people who want to kill you that you'll ever see. They are clumsy, vain, moronic and misguided, yet for all their faults, these are people that are actually fun to spend some time with. And even at the end, when their jihadi plans threaten to reach a kind of fruition, it's quite uncomfortably hard to stop caring for these unlikely brothers as they take their terrorist plot to the streets of London.

Because, oh yes, Four Lions really is a film about terrorists, and not in a pussyfoot way. Though the style is low-key and the comedy deadpan, what these guys are about is absolutely real: nail bombs, explosives, collateral damage, the whole nine yards. But the genius of this film is to take us into their world; we don't know what the motives are, or how they came to be radicalised, but we do know that they've assembled into a half-arsed cell by the time we meet them. Led by Omar (Riz Ahmed), a middle-class security guard who lives with his wife and kid, the group includes the mouthy white radical Barry (Nigel Lindsay), the idiot Waj (Kayvan Novak) and the borderline vegetable Fessel (Adeel Akhtar). Recruited by Barry while Omar and Waj are away on an abortive trip to a Pakistan training camp, Hassan (Arsher Ali) rounds out this bickering yet strangely loyal quintet.

I'm being deliberately vague on story here; I don't want to spoil too much other than to say not only is Morris's film a deliciously subversive comic ride, it truly gunges up the synapses with so many conflicting emotions while the one-liners are flowing that the only thing you can do is give in to its demented logic and laugh, all the while praying that you'll get your moral compass back when this whole thing is over. But my saying that this isn't just the usual pandering to Morris's envelope-pushing prowess: it's also thanks to a brilliant cast, notably Ahmed, who really shows a brave and mature talent here. I have a feeling that broadsheets and tabloids alike will take potshots at this film for its more out-there moments (Omar openly shares his martyrdom fantasies with his wife and young son), but the reason I think this film is so important is that its British-Asian actors – these are not outside insurgents, they're homegrown northerners – are so within Morris's world, and so up to speed with his humour, that it articulates an inclusive viewpoint on suicide bombers in which the whole notion of 'them and us' does not just boil down to race: it boils down to them, the idiots, and us, the people who only see horror in extremism.

The traditional, liberal way to deal with anything as bold and brilliant as this is to look for the flaws, to find that bit of the canvas that isn't quite shaded and say, 'Look! There's a bit missing!' Or it's to side with the establishment outrage and pretend to be different by saying, 'For all it's immaturity, there is something significant here.' Personally, I think Four Lions is a creeping, under-the-skin classic, a comedy that will reward viewing after viewing and might ultimately best last year's In The Loop for quotability. And by the year's end, who knows what the result will be? Either Chris Morris will be in hiding in Salman Rushdie's broom cupboard or the phrase “Fuck Mini Babybel!” will become a national treasure. If there is a God, an Allah, whatever, it must surely be the latter.

Login or register to comment.

Comments

1 baerrtt
Posted on Sunday January 24, 2010, 14:51
Thanks for the review Damon. Glad to hear that Morris is back on form and bound to once again give the Daily Mail heart attacks LOL!

2 Joshjuice
Posted on Sunday January 24, 2010, 18:58
Thanks for review Damon, can't wait to see it, although I think Barry is played Nigel, not Kevin Lindsay. Good actor. Joe (*Note taken; I wrote that at 3am, bear in mind! - Damon)

3 gambit21
Posted on Monday January 25, 2010, 10:01
Trashbat dot cocc, Dan Ashcroft! you think you are the only person in the world who loves nathan barley- you offend me sir. Goods news about four lions though, awesome. Happy Now?

4 His Dudeness
Posted on Monday January 25, 2010, 13:33
Dan Ashcroft aka Preacher Man, works at magazine SugaRape, that's Sugar Ape but we've made the R a capital so that they think there getting angry at the word "Rape" but really their getting angry at the word "Ape".

5 Jack'sSmirkinRevenge
Posted on Monday January 25, 2010, 13:42
Really looking forward to this now. In the meantime, think I'll play a bit of Cock, Muff, Bum hole

6 Damon_Wise
Posted on Monday January 25, 2010, 16:01
Gambit21: I said "really, really, really!" Dutch wine, "fill these", "It's not funny - but it makes us laugh..."

7 Sentinel11
Posted on Monday January 25, 2010, 16:36
any word on a UK release date for this?

8 Damon_Wise
Posted on Tuesday January 26, 2010, 02:00
Spring seems to be the tentative plan, but this may change!

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (432)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (56)

Words From The Wise (33)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
By Helen O'Hara

Are iPads And Smartphones Changing The Face Of Filmmaking?
By Ben Kirby

Screen To Stage: Let The Right One In
By Helen O'Hara

My Encounter With Shia LaBeouf
By James White

Empire Meets Chris Hemsworth’s ‘Rush’ Alter Ego
By Ally Wybrew

The Case For The Wolf Of Wall Street, Surprisingly Feminist Film
By Helen O'Hara

The Movie Drinking Games Too Dangerous To Attempt
By Helen O'Hara

Screen To Stage: From Here To Eternity
By Helen O'Hara

There's No Pixar Film In 2014. Here Are 7 Steps To Help You Survive The Wait
By Helen O'Hara

‘Is Jackie Chan Dead?’ And Other Amazing Film Questions From Google’s Auto-Suggest Function
By Ali Plumb


RECENT COMMENTS

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
"what..??!! THIS is news to me..all i've been hearing bout this movie's NOTHING but terrific...  Avengers12
Read comment

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
"Chris Evans and the entire fucking film is boring, and THAT's the problem, not the character."  Jonny24
Read comment

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
"Because people are idiots? ;) Earnestness, honesty and a hopeful attitude are jus"  spideed2
Read comment

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
"Captain America is not boring. Steve Rogers is boring. It's nearly impossible to "  doug64
Read comment

Screen To Stage: Let The Right One In
"Nice to see this review pop up - I was wondering if you'd been to see it, Helen... I agree with most"  gumphd
Read comment

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
"It's not that the film version of Captain America is uncool, it's the comic book character as resurr"  dansator
Read comment

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
"I meant to say "I don't have a problem with Cap being old fashioned, which some folks think is "  coyoteone
Read comment

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
"I don't have a problem with Cap being old fashioned and boring, and frankly, I'm sick of this trend "  coyoteone
Read comment

Screen To Stage: Let The Right One In
"Thanks for writing about this - I was thinking about going to see it but maybe not now. I remember t"  Mpyrereader
Read comment

Why Do People Think Captain America Is Boring?
"Just back from seeing The Winter Solider and for me it's the best of the Marvel films so far. The se"  LustForLeith
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Movies’ Most Quotable Lines
566 comments

'It's Just A Bit Of Fun': Why Defensive Fans Are Bad News For Movies
361 comments

Competitive Geek Baiting: Or, How To Start A Fanboy Fight
338 comments

The Avatar Backlash: Evaluatin' The Hater-atin'
303 comments

The Complete List Of Tired Movie Cliches
286 comments

Your Favourite Animated Film
217 comments

Note To Hollywood: How To Get People To Switch To Blu-Ray
192 comments

Food For Thought
132 comments

The Ten Moviegoing Commandments
127 comments

Just The Facts, Ma’am
127 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (295)
Helen O'Hara (166)
James Dyer (85)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (54)
James White (28)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Making Of Locke: A Filmmaker's Journey
Steven Knight takes us through six pitstops (via Heston Services)

The 10 Most Exciting Movies At Cannes 2014
Empire's pick of the Croisette's finest

Tom Hardy: A Viewer's Guide
The essential, the recommended, the one for the fans... and the one to avoid

Ten Things To Know About The Spooks Movie
Under the hood of The Greater Good

Who’s In Spider-Man’s Sinister Six?
A bluffer’s guide to the planned spin-off from the Amazing Spider-films

14 YouTube Videos Every Game Of Thrones Fan Should Have Watched By Now
From goats singing the theme tune to every death in under three minutes

Hollywood's Biggest Names On Their Favourite Films
Stars and directors like Nolan, Whedon, Wright and Ford on the films that inspire them

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get Limited Edition Collectable X-Men Art Cards

Subscribe today and get 6 issues of Empire plus a set of collectable X-Men Art Cards for only £20!

Subscribe today

Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Just £25
Receive limited edition subscribers-only covers every month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)