- 10 May 10
Islamic fundamentalism meets Dad’s Army in Chris Morris’ eagerly awaited feature film debut...
Islamic fundamentalism meets Dad’s Army in Chris Morris’ eagerly awaited feature film debut featuring four bumbling Sheffield-based wannabe jihadis squabbling and bickering their way to martyrdom. Cell leader Omar (Riz Ahmed), the brains of the outfit, is competent enough to make it to a training base in Pakistan but, once there, is not sufficiently bright enough to prevent the camp’s complete destruction. His cohorts, meanwhile, are in much worse shape. Based on the shoe-bomber Robbie Reid and looking very much like a drop out from a Slade tribute act, Islamic convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay) is a petulant sociopath combining shades of South Park’s Cartman with a (very) little learning; if the car won’t start, it’s further evidence of a global Jewish plot. His cohort Fessal (Adhil Akhtar) is shown with a box on his head claiming that it is haraam to put his image on camera. Waj (Kayvan Novac), the crew’s resident cheery idiot, would, we guess, feel intellectually intimidated in a Premiere League changing room.
Over the course of the film’s 100 minute running time, the gang variously consider blowing up Boots, attacking a mosque and ponder the use of crows as kamikaze pilots. Guided by comic circumstance more than ideology, they finally make their way to London for Four Lion’s grimly hilarious denouement.
It is a tribute to Mr. Morris’ standing as an artist that for all the ballsy, commendably fearless material here, the film seems cuddly and mainstream set beside such shit-stirring Morris reveries as Brass Eye or The Day Today. The depiction of religious fanatics as simpletons is commendably unforgiving of their beliefs and their mental deficiencies. But too much of the humour relies on dumb jokes and throwaway surrealism. Often, too, the freewheeling, unhurried and changeable pace can lend the air of a TV special or running sketch show staple racked out beyond its natural shape. Still, there is a lovely quartet of generous performances here from Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, and Kayvan Novak. And it’s hard to dismiss any work that can turn from an accidental suicide bombing and pose the theological enquiry “Is he a martyr or is he jalfrezi?” Mr. Morris even musters the nerve to get a gag out of the Jean Charles de Menezes Tube shooting. Bravo, sir.