It’s no surprise then that his first feature as director is already ruffling haircuts all over the world.
Firstly, The Four Lions in question are actually five: Omar (Riz Ahmed) is the groups focused leader, Fessel (Adeel Akhtar) is as dumb as a duck, likes to blow up crows and his father has recently taken to eating newspapers. There’s the new recruit Hassan (Arsher Ali), Barry (Nigel Lindsay) is a cockney Islamic convert who sits slightly on the more sunny side of an angry Ray Winstone and Waj (Kayvan Novak), who is basically a ship with no signs of intelligent life aboard.
Morris and Peep Show writers, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong set out in a mostly traditional form when painting the crew as a kind of a bumbling Jihad version of The Ladykillers or a terrorist version of a slightly thick The Dirty Dozen. A near half-dozen if you will. (ahhhh come on!)
They all have their deep overblown faults and basic prejudices; technical and geographical intelligence aside. Waj, can barely form basic sentences, Barry is an open anti-semitic also intent on turning the tables and blowing up a mosque to aid in the uprising and front man Omar can barely keep the peace within the team. However it’s these broad ridiculously farcical strokes that lift the laughs in Four Lions above most comedies.
Morris, on Four Lions: “Terrorist cells have the same group dynamic as stag parties and five aside football teams. There is conflict, friendship, misunderstanding and rivalry. Terrorism is about an ideology, but it’s also about complete berks.” He manages to push that idea so, so far and towards the end of the film when the team’s “plan” to bomb, well… anything really, we head into territory as good as anything on Brass Eye.
Regrettably, the film does take a while getting there and a handful of jokes fall flat but the ferocious comic timing and run up to the film’s ludicrous costumed finale is brilliant, the dialogue is absurd, funny and brutal and the almost docu-style camera takes nothing away.
Although, not without its flaws, Four Lions is however, a beautifully enjoyable, dangerous, intelligent, preconception-flipping stick poked at a big angry creature that most people wouldn’t want to annoy.
Of course, maybe he’s just punched himself in the face.