Four Lions

(2010) *** 1/2 Unrated
102 min. Drafthouse Films. Director: Christopher Morris. Cast: Kevin Eldon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julia Davis, Rizwan Ahmed, Craig Parkinson.

/content/films/3965/1.jpgWar is no laughing matter...or is it? If we can laugh at "military intelligence" (Dr. Strangelove) and laugh at political maneuvering (In the Loop), why not laugh at jihad? That's the question asked by Chris Morris with his audacious comedy Four Lions. As much in the Ealing tradition as the Strangelove one, Four Lions posits terrorists on a spectrum of dimwitted to moronic when it comes to the understanding of their cause and its effect.

Omar (Riz Ahmed), employed as a mall security guard, has the dubious distinction of being the smartest of his incredibly dumb terror cell in Sheffield, England. As such, he is the de facto leader, in the position of babysitting the others and trying to prevent them from making fatally stupid errors of judgment. Rounding out the group are the highly suggestible dim-bulb Waj (Kayvan Novak), the stupidly inventive Fessel (Adeel Akhtar), and blithering firebrand Barry (Nigel Lindsay). Barry is so dumb that he wants to target mosques to "radicalize the moderates," and on a disasterous trip to a training camp in Pakistan, Omar and Waj accidentally make enemies of jihadists that are seemingly competent—in everything but letting Omar and Waj into their camp.

The groups' bumbling efforts to get organized culminate in a plan to blow themselves up at the London Marathon, a costumed fun run. So the film's extended climax finds the characters strapped up as suicide bombers, but under costumes like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. The police efforts to ensnare the terrorists prove just as insane and inept, prompting one of the film's blackest jokes: an argument amongst snipers about the difference between a wookie and a bear as the wrong furry target lays shot in the street. The satire would be sharper if the characters were less idiotic and had more coherent radical motivation, but Morris and co-screenwriters Jesse Armstrong & Sam Bain certainly flirt in this territory with Omar, who ironically has all the creature comforts of Western life—a wife and child living in a well-appointed home—and thinks he wants to give it all up, with their full support. One way we know Omar is the smartest is that he's the only one of the suicide bombers to get cold feet.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 3/8/2011

Distributor: Magnolia Home Entertainment

Magnolia delivers Four Lions on Blu-ray in a sharp transfer from hi-def source elements. Color and contrast are accurate, with solid black level, but the picture shines most in the detail and texture departments, which deliver crisp results. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 likewise maximizes the source material, recreating the theatrical wraparound effect, which livens up the rear channels in the training camp and "fun run" sequences, while generally providing well-prioritized dialogue.

The too-short "Bradford Interview" (3:59, SD) includes some comments from cast and crew.

"Behind the Scenes" (12:36 with "Play All" option, SD) comprises four segments of raw production B-roll.

"Lost Boys" (8:27, SD), a featurette by associate producer Afi Khan, gathers interviews with young, British Pakistanis.

"Interview with Mo Ali" (13:00, SD) is a chat with a young, white convert to Islam awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

Seven "Deleted Scenes" (19:16, SD) include trims as well as alternate takes.

Lastly, we get "Storyboards" (:49, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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