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Four Lions - Blu-ray Movie Review

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Four Lions - Movie Review

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5 stars

British TV writer and Filmmaker, Christopher Morris got the idea for Four Lions, a British satire about a group of men bent on jihad, from three years of research in which he spoke with imams, police, secret services, hundreds of Muslims, and even those who have trained and fought jihad. His research revealed an interesting thread that worms its way through the fabric of modern-day jihadism - the frequency of farce in their evil deeds.

For instance, one report had five jihadis planning to ram a U.S. warship with a launch full of bombs. In the dead of night they slipped their boat into the water, stacked it with explosives and stepped in. The boat sank. While he found himself tempted to include this particular incident in the film, as well as many of the other real-life blunders, Morris eventually decided reality was almost too ridiculous. But in Four Lions, his depiction of terrorists as Keystone Cops is one of the funniest, and at times, saddest things you’ll see on film, because as you might imagine (but likely never have), even a bomb-strapped Keystone Cop can be deadly.

The film, which uses the look of a hand-held pseudo-documentary, centers on a group of four British mujahedeen living in Sheffield U.K. Morris wastes no time tipping his hand to the satirical nature of the film’s plot when, in the opening scene, we witness the men filming a martyrdom terrorist video in front of a flag - grainy footage which we’ve unfortunately become all too accustomed to in real life. But in this case, the men become entangled in an argument about whether or not the toy-sized gun is too small and what point exactly they should be making in the video. We quickly get the idea these guys are bumbling idiots.

We soon learn that the leader – and clearly the “smartest” - of the pack is Omar (Riz Ahmed), a happily married working-class family man surrounded by westernized normalcy, and who seems to hold no particular quarrels with British society or western culture. He comes off as the most sympathetic of the entire bunch despite his numerous rants about capitalism and western imperialism as he drinks from a Starbucks Mocha Grande Latte. His likeability is heightened as we meet his beautiful wife (Preeya Kalidas) and child and realize what he’s up against as the brains of the outfit of would-be terrorists. It’s this sick, twisted normalization of Omar’s family life, coupled with the depiction of extremely dangerous terrorists as inept boobs that makes Four Lions such an effective film. We often find ourselves squirming at the perverse irony that teeters between rolling-in-the-aisles funny and unnervingly disturbing.

It’s Omar’s uncle living in Pakistan who has terrorist connections and who encourages Omar and Waj (Kayvan Novak) to head there for terrorist training camp. But they quickly flunk out when it’s discovered they’ve brought traceable cell phones to document their training and when an attempt to get back in the good graces of their trainers, by shooting down an American drone, goes horribly awry. So, it’s back to the States to carry out their plan of destruction without “formal” terrorist planning.

Undaunted, Omar decides that the London Marathon will be the target of their mass multiple suicide bombings, despite the push by one member of the group who campaigns for bombing a mosque with hopes it will “radicalize the moderates.” Training for the bombing invites a cavalcade of hilarious antics, including Fessal’s (Adeel Akhtar) dream to make suicide bombers out of crows, the testing of which results in a premature detonation and shower of black feathers, Barry’s (Nigel Lindsay) desire to be a jihadist despite his inability to keep the getaway car in working order, and Hassan (Arsher Ali) who is more content writing rap songs then he is planning suicide bombings.

Many viewers will find themselves put off by the somewhat sympathetic light in which many of the characters are portrayed in Christopher Morris’s seething satire. Others will find the genius in his high toast to the idea that laughter is better than killing. But what we’ll all agree on is the amount of edge to this edgy comedy and Morris’s chutzpah for demanding that the film’s tone and its uneasy ending remain intact throughout the film’s financing.

It might be a bit difficult to find Four Lions in your area, but it’s a must see if you can. It debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, saw a limited release last fall, and is slowly making its way around the country. It opened this weekend in Dallas, ironically at the Texas Theater that shares a similarly dark past with Lee Harvey Oswald. It will be released on DVD and blu-ray on March 8..

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{2jtab: Film Details}

Four Lions - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for language throughout, including some sexual references.
Writer
: Christopher Morris
Cast:
Kayvan Novak; Nigel Lindsay; Riz Ahmed; Adeel Akhtar; Preeya Kalidas; Mohammad Aqil
Genre
: Comedy | Drama
Memorable Movie Quote:
"Soph, I can't even get them to stir their tea without smashing a window."
Distributor:
Drafthouse Pictures
Official Site:
www.drafthousefilms.com/
Release Date: November 5, 2010 (limited); February 25, 2011 (wider)
Blu-ray Release Date:
March 8, 2011.

Plot Synopsis: Four Lions tells the story of a group of British jihadists who push their abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point. As the wheels fly off, and their competing ideologies clash, what emerges is an emotionally engaging (and entirely plausible) farce. In a storm of razor-sharp verbal jousting and large-scale set pieces, Four Lions is a comic tour de force; it shows that-while terrorism is about ideology-it can also be about idiots.

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{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Review}

Four Lions - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

3 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - April 5, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

The 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is sharp, colorful, and loaded with texture.  Though, due to a lack of grain, you’d never mistake this for studio work.  Perhaps that is because the film was shot on high definition video for the documentary look it needed.  Regardless, the picture is a good one that offers texture in the faces of its actors and their wardrobe.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is heavy with sound and immerses the viewer into the absurd world of these wannabe terrorists quite nicely.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Unfortunately, there is none offered.  A shame.

Special Features:

The disc isn’t loaded with supplemental material.  What is has is a nice reminder of how good at farce the British are, though.  With seven hilarious deleted scenes (that could have easily been in the picture), rehearsal footage, and talking head interviews, the supplemental material does provide a nice look at the chemistry that made the film so fantastic.

  • Bradford Interview (4 min)
  • Behind the Scenes (12 min)
  • Lost Boys (8 min)
  • Interview with Mo Ali (13 min)
  • Deleted Scenes (20 min)
  • Storyboards

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