Browsing through tweets while we waited to see Four Lions I read this: "Saw Four Lions ... Last Night. Very funny, very brutal. Many 'not sure if I should be laughing' moments." (Thanks to HolliesDragon !).
Trying now to process my thoughts after laughing for most of the 96 minutes I would agree. I would simply add the counterpoint: Many 'not sure if I should be crying' moments." Seeing the movie at a Luton screen with several Pakistani lads certainly helped -- their laughter at the ineptitude of the failed Jihadis, the cultural stereoptypes and the lapses into Urdu profanities was the loudest, and their verbal protest at the occasional negative stereotyping and police and security service ineptitude the strongest.
Its brilliant contemporary tragicomedy with a twist.
There are more clips on Trailers page of the official website.
I am not going to review it per se; that has been done extensively. I think Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian gets it as right as anyone. He really says what needs to be said at the beginning:
... a satirical black comedy about Islamic suicide bombers, crucially targeting his sacrilegious energy not at all at the tenets of Islam – what could be more tiresome or irrelevant? – but simply at the activity of suicide bombing itself. It is not treated with the cowed, shocked respect habitually to be found in drama or on the news, but rather cheerful scorn. This is a film in which suicide bombers are not martyr-warriors, or powerful enemies to be hated and feared, but ridiculous bunglers. In the tradition of Chaplin sending up Hitler, Chris Morris depicts a movement of violent berks and prats. In this film, everyone is stupid. The suicide bombers are stupid; the coppers are stupid; even the clever suicide bomber with the gentle, loving marriage and adoring son is stupid: he is the most culpably stupid of all. And this never looks like a cop-out or a moral equivalence of stupidity, but the comic enactment of a generally degraded and absurd culture of paranoid futility.
There is also a very good review from The Scotsman by Alistair Harkness that was republished in our local Luton Today. But there are two groups I want to hear from: relatives of victims of terror, and the Muslim community. BBC Radio One looked with two short pieces reported here. For me the laughter around me through so much of the film told me what young Muslims think, though I await with interest the view of any religious leaders I know who may have seen it. (For that view I expect to have to wait for the DVD release in September.)
But does humour go together with terror, especially where the impact of that terror is so recent? Bradshaw in the Guardian wrote that he was "... brutally unimpressed with the moral idiocy of suicide bombing and suggests that the only sane response is derisive laughter. I think he is right. The impact of terroism is purely and simply that it inspires terror. Terror numbs; it dominates the mind; it clouds vision; it forces irrational responses. That is its power. It is an instrument of darkness, and its power is in maintained darkness. For me humour breaks that open, and robs it of its power.
But another thing. This movie showed bungling people getting it wrong. But think back over recent years, at the stories that have emerged of real failed attempts at terror. One realises that the picture presented in Four Lions is not quite so far from truth -- and one suspects that even those we come to view as so evil were tempted on (many?) occasions to make light of their task and each other. The trouble is that many have so absolutised terrorism, and of course its Jihadist ideology, that it becomes absolute evil in our mind. And we assume, or are told, that the only thing that can deal with it is another absolute. That is certainly how many Christians read it. Trouble is, that even if this were true in heaven and hell, white and black, good and evil terms, life here on earth is never so absolute. We live with a whole raft of shades of grey. But read the right wing Islamophobic blogs and you can end up with a very glum view of our chances to defeat this thing. In my mind the humour of Four Lions totally breaks that image down.
As to whether you will like it or not, and whether it achieves this. A very unscientific survey here based on two responses. I thought it worked; I laughed right through, it was very definitely my style of humour, and I came away with the evil very definitely put in its place. But my wife Anne has a good sense of humour, its just different, and she didn't laugh nearly as much. Consequently evil wasn't quite so roundly exposed in her perception, and she came away not so sure it worked, and more uneasy at the laughter.
Later: It was late when I wrote the above and I forgot this most important conclusion. I can see why some wouldn't want to or shouldn't see it. The words of Esther Hyman, the sister of a victim on 7/7 quoted in the Radio One piece above are probably helpful:
"I get what the director's trying to do and I understand it. For me personally, the bottom line is the same as with the events of 7/7 and with life in general. It doesn't really matter how I feel about the film.
I appreciate her wise words. She is recognising her terrible pain and vulnerability, but understands there is more to it than that. As a nation, indeed nations, we cannot remain held in the grip of terror. Our own governments response to the terrible events of this decade. 9-11 and 7/7 and the US war on terror need a sense of perspective. And for me Four Lions helps us break that grip and provide that perspective.
A great movie.