By the Editor, re-posted from 20 May 2010.
I feel the urge to share my thoughts on Chris Morris’s debut film ‘Four Lions’. It’s a comedy about four inept suicide bombers planning a terrorist attack in the UK. A very ballsy choice of plot indeed, so I was looking forward to see what was in store. In the end I was disappointed – it carried a politically charged theme, and was riddled with misrepresentations and distortions. As far as the comedy element goes, I chuckled a few times but it was largely a yawnfest. People around me were roaring with laughter, but for me, ’Four Laughs’ would have been a more apt name considering the repetitive, contrived, and simple wit that defined the film. Half an hour of this would have been almost palatable, but 2 hours felt drawn out and downright boring as the movie ran out of momentum towards the end.
The Jihad Video
The film opens with a scene where the four protagonists are filming a Jihad video in anticipation of their upcoming act of terror. Having given Chris Morris’s first cinematic venture the benefit of the doubt, I felt foolish when it galloped right out of the stocks into its first crass misrepresentation of the reality of suicide bombers and the actual motives of Islamist terrorism. The aspiring martyrs voice a volley of anti-Western condemnation, alluding to the West’s soulless nature and lack of spirituality. Other than a fleeting mention of the West’s ‘imperialist ways’, the main grievances of this group of thirty-something terrorists in-the-making are Capitalism, consumerism, McDonalds, drinking, and promiscuity. Four Lions perpetuates the old, tired myth that Islamist terrorists attack the West because of its ‘freedoms’, and materialistic, godless ways. The actual motivations that fuel the legitimate terrorist threats that we face, spring from our governments’ history of murderous actions and policies in Muslim countries. At this stage I really shouldn’t have to mention the illegal invasions of Iraq & Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of over 1.3 million in the former and countless in the latter.
According to the wisdom of ‘Four Lions’, and Western cinema & media in general, Islamist terrorists prioritise the punishment of indulging in ‘freedoms’ and McDonalds, over the avengement of the innumerable maimed and massacred innocent Muslims. This common falsehood serves to distract Western viewers from the crimes of their governments. Equally usefully, it incites a sense of righteous indignation at the same time – How dare you attack us for our way of life? This anger is moulded into support for those very crimes.
Islamic Family Values
One scene in the film really made me squirm in my seat, such was the nature of the pernicious message within. Towards the end of the movie, the protagonist is sat in his living room with his broad-Yorkshire-accented (Muslim) wife and young child. The three of them casually discuss his impending terrorist attack with supportive admiration and wonder. The toddler even jokes that his father will ‘be in heaven before his head hits the roof’. I felt incredibly uncomfortable watching this scene because of the way it portrayed a typical (thirty-something) British Muslim family unit, mother and child included, as colluding in mass murder as casually as they would discuss a family party. I feel that this was not only a major misrepresentation of the nature of suicide bombers, but more importantly, it was used as an opportunity to smear and disgrace young Muslim families on the British cinema screen.
The Predator Drone
When two of the gang go to Pakistan to attend ‘terrorist training camp’, the famed Predator Drone makes an appearance. Flying low, it stalks the sky back and forth between the mountains like a great white shark, a scene which I actually found quite unsettling! The drone doesn’t fire any of its supersonic Hellfire missiles, but one of the imbecilic trainees takes a pot shot at it with a bazooka. Little does he know, he has the weapon the wrong way around and he fires the projectile backwards into the terrorist training camp (taking out Osama bin Laden as the film’s conclusion reveals). The most troubling aspect of this scene is how the context of US Predator Drone attacks is laid out (or rather, not laid out). The protagonists are indeed terrorists. However, at no point does the movie even hint at the true legal and moral status of America’s drone attacks on Pakistan. These attacks are illegal, they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty, and they constitute acts of war. I shudder to think of the USA’s reaction if Pakistan were to perform drone strikes against its alleged enemies on US soil, killing US citizens in the process. If that were to happen, Americans would most definitely shoot the drones out of the sky – that would be their obligation and right as sovereign citizens. If America’s enemies exercise this right however, they’re terrorists. It’s one rule for the USA and her allies, and another for the rest.
Contrary to the robotic killer’s somewhat innocuous appearance in the film, reality holds that the Predator Drone is responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths in Pakistan, and it therefore continues to serve as a significant recruiter of terrorists in the troubled country.
Grumpy Old Man?
Yes, perhaps I’m being a grumpy old man. It’s only a comedy after all, not an educational documentary. Maybe so, but I felt that this film was so riddled with misrepresentations and distortions of the nature of terrorism – its plot backbone – that it ceased to even make sense and became somewhat irrelevant.
For many (myself included), this will be the first time they see an on-screen portrayal of the inner workings of a British Islamic suicide terror cell. Either consciously or subconsciously, it is undeniable that we all form our opinions and beliefs partly based on the information we absorb from the media that we consume. Because of this, I firmly argue that it is crucial that we lay bare and acknowledge the misrepresentations, falsehoods and distortions that can alter the way we think about important political issues affecting us.