While it might seem impossible to make a funny movie about would-be terrorists, British director Chris Morris has found a way in the Four Lions.
The director known for his spoofs of TV news stories, in a Monty Python style, tells the story of a group of Muslims who have grown up in England but want to be part of the holy war against infidels.
It's never clear why. Omar, the leader, has a home, a beautiful wife and an adorable son. He uses Disney'sThe Lion King to teach his boy what is right and wrong.
There's no talk of the invasion of Iraq, and these Jihadists have been so deeply coopted by Western culture that they sing "Dancing In The Moonlight" on the way to their mission to blow themselves up during the London Marathon. They call each other "bro."
The "Jihadists" use derogatory terms for Pakistanis.
The main issue, as Omar's wife puts it, is to find the right place to die. His son tells him not to worry, that his head will be in heaven before it hits the ceiling.
The incompetence of these four -- a fifth joins them -- is matched by the police and civilians. A friend-boss can't see the warning signs, even when Omar asks for permission to go to Pakistan for two weeks, claiming he is attending a wedding.
Omar (Riz Ahmed) really will be attending a terrorist training camp with his friend, Waj (Kayvan Novak).
Spoiler alert/go to next paragraph: Omar, apparently not seeing the arrow pointing which way a missile launcher should aimed, tries to bring down a drone. Instead his missile goes backwards, killing terrorist leaders.
After being told they are "f.... Mr. Beans," they are sent home to continue insulting each other on who is most willing to die for Allah.
In the background it is clear that the police are catching considerable activity in their surveillance cameras, but are they after the right Muslims?
They real Jihadists do everything but take out an ad so there should be no mistakes. One of them raps: "I'm the Mujihadeen, and I'm making a scene, now you are going to feel what the boom boom means."
Barry, the white Muslim, played by Nigel Lindsay, speaks at public forums defending Islam. "If you think we are all terrorists, why shouldn't we be?" Earlier, Barry had placed a cake with twin towers in a synagogue on the anniversary of 9/11. A speaker at one of these rallies says Muslims are misunderstood and shouldn't be feared.
The fourth lion, Faisal, played by Adeel Akhar, tries to teach crows how to fly bombs into targets.
A fifth Muslim, Hassan, played by Arsher Ali, is recruited to join them.
They argue over what they should bomb. Barry wants to bomb a mosque to inflame moderates. Omar persuades them to get disguises, put bombs under them, and blow themselves up during the London Marathon.
A suggestion that they blow up the Internet by jumping off a tree and landing ass-first on a laptop is rejected.
Spoiler alert/go to next paragraph: One lesson is brutally learned. Never try to employ the Heimlich Maneuver on someone who has a suicide bomb underneath his costume.
All five lions blow themselves up at various points, taking some police and an innocent cafe owner with them. A police sharpshooter, told to take out a man in a bear disguise, shoots a man in a "Wookie" costume instead, allowing Omar to escape for the time being. The sharpshooter insisted the man he shot was the right man by virtue of the fact that he shot him. This is caused a tautology in logic classes.
The story isn't that much unlike some real events. Najibullah Zazi, a Denver man who was preparing to blow up a train on the anniversary of 9/11 in New York City, got all the way to Manhattan without being stopped. Police had been watching him for months. Fortunately, he couldn't figure out how to make his peroxide bomb.
A security expert, defending the police reaction to the attack on the marathon in Four Lions, said, "Police shot the right man but the wrong man exploded."
One lesson, explained by Omar's boss, Matt, is that most loud bangs are not bombs, they are usually scooters backfiring.
Although the movie had a reasonably good run in the U.K. after its premiere Jan. 24 at the Sundance Film Festival, don't expect to see it at your neighborhood theater anytime soon. It might be as controversial as the concept of building a mosque near "Ground Zero." It is available on Amazon's U.K. site.
As for Morris, he has said trying to create controversy makes films boring. "I feel in a weird way that this is a good-hearted film. It's not a hate film, so I would hope that that aspect would come through."