[ CITY PAPER GRADE A- ]
Once you get past the initial shock, the idea of making a comedy about suicide bombers doesn't actually seem so far-fetched. And if anyone is qualified, it's Britain's Chris Morris, a onetime collaborator of Steve Coogan and In the Loop's Armando Iannucci, whose television series Brass Eye mercilessly mocked social hysteria and self-serious pseudo-authority. (If you're curious, look up the "Paedogeddon" special, in which Phil Collins is snookered into endorsing a fictitious charity called "Nonce Sense.") At the core of Four Lions are the bumbling actions of a group of would-be jihadis living in London, some acting out of petty grievances and others because they're too dim to question what they're told. The wisest of the bunch — and boy, is that a relative term — is Omar (Riz Ahmed of The Road to Guantanamo ), who's far from the embittered extremist you'd expect. If anything, his elder brother is the more doctrinaire Muslim — as well as the one more likely to make Juan Williams' hackles rise — but he's more inclined to deliver lectures than explosive devices. It's hard to tell what motivates Omar and his comrades, in fact, which feeds into the movie's slyly delivered subtext. These guys aren't diehards; they're cannon fodder. When they're making their martyrdom videos, they bicker over the size of the guns they're holding, which is as close as they get to firing a shot. The jihadis' absurdity is rooted in real life — Morris' inspiration was a group of people who loaded explosives onto a boat that sank under their weight — but Morris doesn't trivialize the danger they represent. Even idiots with bombs can get lucky, so to speak. Satire bleeds into tragedy, until you can no longer tell them apart.