I have 471 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Four Lions (2010)
What’s it rated? R for incredibly inventive uses of language, unabashed hatred for the capitalist pig dogs and Jihadi slapstick.
Did people make it? Written by Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and Simon Blackwell. Directed by Chris Morris. Acted by Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar, Arsher Ali and Benedict Cumberbatch.
What’s it like in one sentence? The blackest comedy since Heathers (black as in dark not as in Tyler Perry-ish).
Why did you watch it? Chewer MiracleWhip asked nicely and I relented because I’m swell.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Omar is deeply mistrustful and critical of Western society. He decides it’s time to radicalize and become a suicide bomber along with his three bumbling friends including borderline retarded Waj, angry and militant white convert Barry and naive and sweet Faisal. The movie follows them to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan all the way to the fateful day they plan on making their statement. Somehow it all manages to be consistently hilarious and brilliant while being simultaneously horrific and thought provoking.
Play or remove from my queue? Put this at the top of your queue. Why didn’t I watch this earlier? I’d read tons of amazing things about this film, including our own Ian Pratt’s fantastic review from a few months back. Honestly, if I had remembered he’d done a review of the film so recently I would have put this movie into the queue a little lower and attacked it in a few months. Since that’s the case I’ll only drop a few words on it, as Ian kind of summed up everything I was planning on saying about the film. All of that aside, this film is one of the best I’ve seen all year and easily one of the best of the decade as well.
The main reason Four Lions works as well as it does is that it manages to have respect for the subject matter without feeling overly reverential or, on the opposite spectrum, tasteless and crass. You know from the first scene that these guys are serious about blowing themselves up in a Jihad to protest Western imperialism, but the characters are all so goofy and dense, that the actual seriousness of their intentions doesn’t hit you until they start testing the explosives they’ve made on microwaves and birds. After that, it slowly started sinking in that these guys were serious and I’d spent an hour rooting for people that wanted me dead. And then I started a slow clap all by myself.
It’s brilliant how sympathetic most of these guys are. Omar (magnificently played by Riz Ahmed) has a beautiful wife and charming son and is incredibly well spoken and good humored. So when the ball starts rolling about their bombing target and the sheer amount of collateral damage they are going to take with them, it feels like a betrayal even though they’ve been saying that’s what they were going to do all along. Omar’s best friend Waj (Novak) is so simple minded and trusting of Omar and his Jihad, that by the time he’s strapped with explosives and ready to go you’re praying for something to snap him out of it. It’s all very suspenseful and intense for something billed as a farce. Which actually leads me to my only real complaint about the film.
There are only two moments in the entire film that seemed a little too broad for the type of tone they were trying to set with the film and they both came in the last ten minutes. One was the ultimate fate of Barry, the exceptionally angry white Muslim and the other was over the credits when it showed a news report of Omar’s rocket launching escapade in Pakistan. All the comedy in the film is derived from character, but the two scenes I’m mentioning just felt like cheap laughs to me. Both moments would have worked much better in a film that had a lighter tone and was more slapstick, but their inclusion jarringly pulled me out of the movie both times and made what was almost a flawless film into just a damn exceptional one.
Really though, this movie is one of a kind and gutsy in all the ways movies like this should be. It’s like Dr. Strangelove mated with Paradise Now and gave birth to this brilliant hybrid of genre’s and intention. Ian mentions In the Loop in his review a few times and I can’t think of a more apt film to compare it to. If you laughed yourself to tears at that movie like I did, then this one will be made for you. On the other hand, if you’re easily offended by political incorrectness and films that dare to ask questions you might not want the answer to, then avoid this and rent I Am Number Two or whatever the fuck that movie is called instead. It’ll be less challenging for you that way.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? The day that Four Lions premiered at Sundance, the terror threat level in the UK went up to “severe”. I’m not saying it’s connected but I am also saying it’s connected.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? The Infidel (I haven’t watched it yet but the trailer looks hilarious), A Film With Me In It (added to my queue as it sounds like a dark delight), The Road to Guantanamo (Winterbottom film staring Omar from Four Lions), The Trotsky (again, haven’t seen but the trailer looked intriguing), Down Terrace (I haven’t heard to many good things about this one).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? To kill you with repetition I have to say that In the Loop is the soul brother of this film but I think Four Lions is even funnier and more profound.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.8
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 4.3
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? I don’t want to overhype it. I know you’ll love this movie as long as you’re in the mood to be challenged.
Did you watch anything else this week? Captain America which was 50% classic and 50% shit I’ve seen a thousand times. Honestly, I’ve just been reading A Dance With Dragons and rehearsing for a play that I’m in.
Next Week? Uncle Boonmee unless y’all got a better idea.