Monday, 6 September 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Four Lions

Just to head off on a digression before I even get started (great opening comment, I know), I just want to say that it is about time a film like this comes along. Not to give away anything about the direction the review is going before I get started, but this is a topic that has needed addressed in films for a long time. The reason it has taken so long is because everyone is pussyfooting around the idea of political correctness and what-have-you. Ever since 9/11, Islamophobia has been rampant to the point that members of the Islamic faith are viewed as folk devils and not human beings. Saying that, this is not helped by the reactions of the minorities of this faith who act wrongfully in their vilification and as such condemn the religion to mass criticism. The logic of these people, who believe that is wrong to challenge the ideas of Islam, is completely entrenched in bigotry. Christians and Jews are slagged off on a regular basis, but if people slag off Islam and Scientology, it's all a lack of respect and political correctness. There is no such thing is double-standards as far as I am concerned, and as such it is a good thing that films like this are getting made. Anyway, the reason I am getting on my soapbox is because the new film I am reviewing is Four Lions, the debut feature film by British satirist Chris Morris. The film was on release addressed with a degree of controversy, but thankfully not much, because of the films plot and topic matter. The film satirically depicts the struggles of a group of young Muslim men in Sheffield who become radicals and decide to become suicide bombers. Now, I understand the concerns of Muslims who might have been worried at the depiction of their religion, and I would consider the film to be wrong and highly insensitive if it had addressed the topic without a degree of sensitivity to the religion of the protagonists. I feel exactly the same with regards to addressing religions of all sorts and their depiction in the media and it would not be fair to address this without taking this into account. The sensitivity and fine line that is balanced in this film really well is perhaps the films greatest strength. The script and direction by Chris Morris address this with great skill. It is a sensitive film that is not without its touching moments, particularly between Omar, played wonderfully by Riz Ahmed, and his family, or the friendship between him and Waj, played by Kayvan Novak. However, not forgetting that having the film as a piece of entertainment, which it is, gets across the message of the film better, and the film succeeds tremendously in this department. Making light of the hypocrisy and misinterpretations of the meaning of Jihad, Morris, along with Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, have masterfully crafted a hilarious script which remains sensitive to the group depicted in the film. Little things, such as the "most Jihad of the lot of us" Barry, played really brilliantly by Nigel Lindsay, being English are important in showing how things can be misinterpreted and the absurdity of becoming radicalised Muslims. Just to stay on Nigel Lindsay, he delivers a real performance of comedic genius as Barry. In a performance reminiscent of John Goodman's Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski, Lindsay's Barry is both a figure of absurdity and intimidation in this film. It is both hilarious and frightening because it is quite possible that figures like this exist, and he plays this character just right down the line. Casting for the film is wonderful, with each of the performances balancing each other out, creating a film which is highly sensitive but also highly funny at the same time.

(It is at this point I last had the review saved. Unfortunately, I stupid slight-of-hand on my part caused the page to be reviewed and the rest of the review to be wiped. Very pissed off at myself, so I'll try my best to work it out from here)

It is important that films like this get made, both for the sake of freedom of speech, something which is a universal right and must be preserved at all costs, but for also highlighting misinterpretations regarding the Islamic faith, both for young Muslims and for those outside the faith. Worth noting is the fact that Jihad translated into Arabic translates to the word "struggle." If you ask me, that leaves the true meaning of Jihad open to interpretation, after all, isn't life a struggle? Somewhere down the line, some absolute bigots and complete wazzocks have used this to their advantage, wrongly radicalising members of this faith "in the name of Allah." The activities of the Christians during the Crusades "in the name of God" are now looking upon as absurd, primitive and savage, and the same case is happening in the misinterpretation of Jihad as "armed struggle." It could be legitimately interpreted this way, but it is a universal trait of man, regardless of faith, to be non-violent and live in peace and harmony. Anyway, off the soapbox, this is a film review after all, and not a podium for my views. With regards to criticisms, there are a few that must be addressed that are apparent to me. While it is obvious to me that for the most part the line between serious and comedy is balanced very well by the film, unfortunately it is not entirely consistent throughout and does on occasion falter. This does make light of the seriousness with which I took the film for the most part and denies me from being able to view it in a better light. There are scenes in the film in which it seems too much like a drama or too much like a comedy, rather than a perfect counterbalance between the both. Maybe I ask for too much, but I think the audience should demand more, especially whenever there exists films such as Withnail and I and An American Werewolf in London in the same genre. Furthermore, bar the topic that is foremost at hand in this film, there really isn't much else to it. At times, there are hints of potential plot elements or subplots which, one, are not developed and left at surface level, and two, digress from the topic at hand. Saying that, I found this to be a great and solid film, on the basis of the performances of its main actors and sensitive handling in both script and direction by Chris Morris. Some critics have said that they found the film offensive, but I think that anyone with a degree of common sense, of which we all have, who puts an effort to actually think about this film will realise otherwise, and that this is an important film to watch, both as a satire and something that is sending a message.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Smiling (with regards to the film)


Anonymous said...

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The Thin White Dude said...

Just so you know, for any bastards out there who want to close down my profile, I do "NOT!" endorse file-sharing, so shoo off! I put a lot of effort into this!