The debut feature film directed by Chris Morris, and written by Morris in collaboration with Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain of Peep Show fame. It's a comedy of the type where a bunch of ordinary blokes, none of them the very sharpest of minds, take on a task bigger than themselves. Similar to The Full Monty, in a funny way. Except that they want to be Islamist suicide bombers.
This film provides examples of:
Actual Pacifist: As part of the deconstruction of Acceptable Religious Targets, Omar's fundamentalist Muslim brother Ahmed tries to talk him out of doing violence, which he rightly suspects he's planning. Naturally, the authorities see him as the terrorist mastermind behind it and are threatening him with torture at the end. Ahmed seems to be a more fundamentalist Muslim than Omar, ironically, refusing to enter the same room with Omar's wife and in Islamic garb everywhere he goes, whereas Omar wears Western-style clothes. He explicitly argues that fundamentalist interpretations of Islam prohibit the violence Omar wants to commit, averting the usual depictions.
Ad Lib: Most noticeably is Waj's "Fuck Mini Babybels" line that was added on the spot by Kayvan Novak.
We also get an impressive stint of angry Urdu: "these useless fuck-my-auntie-from-a-standing-position pyjama-wearing cockerel dicks!"
Armoured Closet Gay: Repressed homosexuality is a rather plausible explanation for Barry's character, given his bizarre "initiation ritual" with Hasan (which involves shoving a baked bean up his penis) and forcing Waj to urinate into his own mouth. Indeed, it is probable that he turned to fundamentalist Islam because it let him fight against the society that he secretly wishes he was part of.
Ax-Crazy: Barry is clearly not very stable, and one gets the impression that he's turned to radical Islam largely because it gives him an excuse to be violent.
Baa Bomb: "One sheep was blown up in the making of this film."
Brick Joke: At the training camp, Waj and Omar try to use a rocket launcher to destroy a UAV, only for it to fire backwards. During the very end of the movie, we find out they took out Osama bin Laden-this was a year before he actually was killed.
Early on, Omar scoffs at Faisal's plan to blow up a chemist's (for Americans, a pharmacy). Guess what he ends up blowing up at the end of the movie
British Accents: A nice smattering of various northern accents and a few London ones.
Chekhov's Skill: Rather, Chekhov's Obnoxious Habit. Barry displays early on his tendency to eat inedible objects, either when he can't get his way or as part of his idiotic self-flagellation obsession (otherwise involving beans or urine). His final act is attempting to swallow a SIM card to stop Omar from saving Waj's life, only to choke on it, causing a stranger to intervene and ultimately trigger his bomb accidentally.
"I used to be in a band... until all the birds fell off the roof."
Cluster F-Bomb: There's a lot of swearing in general, but Omar's Urdu rants are a particular highlight.
Completely Missing the Point: Waj's Chicken Cottage rant, Barry asking Feisal to "show me the voice]]... The wannabe jihadists seem unable to agree on what the point actually is. Even Omar, the guy with the most gumption out of the lot of them, fails to come up with a point whilst telling his son about his plans.
Cower Power: Malcolm Storge MP hiding under the table when a would-be suicide bomber threatens an attack.
Crapsack World: Essentially every character is either an idiot, crazy or both.
The Lions refer to each other as 'bro' constantly, and this serves both as a deep acknowledgment of their ties as Jihadists... and as a general, modern, completely vernacular form of Anglophone address.
When they're at the van suiting up before the marathon, a cop comes up and says "you're gonna die in those suits" to which Omar replies "Probably. It's all for a good cause."
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Very successfully averted. Not one of the terrorists meet their quixotic goals and each is portrayed as exceedingly silly for the violent acts they eventually do commit.
Driven to Suicide: Omar was always intending to kill himself, obviously, but he had been about to change his mind and turn himself in... then the police indirectly kill Waj, and he changes his mind back out of grief.
Dumb Muscle: Waj. Noticeably bigger than his cohorts, manhandles on Omar's command, one functioning brain cell.
Even Evil Has Standards: Played with bizarrely-Omar is heading a terrorist plot to kill who-knows-how-many innocent people, but he still tries to take the moral high ground over his brother for "locking women in a cupboard." Further, he is ultimately unwilling to trick Waj into going through with the attack once his heart starts having second thoughts (which is three more than his brain).
Faux Yay: "We're going to get down to some gay business". They're not.
Foreshadowing: Barry eating his SIM card, talking about blowing up a pharmacy.
Gratuitous English: Omar's Pakistani uncle speaks in Urdu but randomly throws in bits of English when he's ranting to Omar and Waj, such as when they shoot their Kalashnikovs in the air, and his long rant mentions "James fuck Bond!"
Harmless Villain: Poor old Faisal never seems all that interested in actual terrorism, even if he were interested he would be too incompetent to do any harm, and he's downright sheepish at the thought of blowing himself up.
Omar rails against western culture, saying that it's obsessed with technology, escapism and other nonsense. However, the jihadists all make repeated references to how much they enjoy things like Xbox video games, English theme parks, Disney films, and even Rambo.
The jihadists are all determined to kill unbelievers, but Barry starts insisting that they target a mosque and blame it on unbelievers, hoping this will radicalize moderate Muslims. Later, Waj holds a restaurant full of Muslims hostage. One of them even points out that Waj's bomb won't kill any unbelievers.
The jihadists all think of themselves as champions of Islam, when none of them seem to be particularly religious. Hassan admits that he rarely goes to mosque, and Barry outright states that it's a waste of time, since he sees everyone in there as idiots and sellouts. Waj doesn't seem to understand the concept of praying to Mecca. Omar's family is much less conservative than his deeply religious brother, and they laugh off his religious arguments. Even Faisal, the most devout of the group, is only obeying laws that his father tells him to obey (and his father is crazy).
Barry suggests bombing a mosque to radicalize the moderates and incite revolution. Omar likens it to punching yourself in a street fight. Barry counters that you could punch yourself in the face to make yourself "go mental" and win the fight. Omar goads him into trying it, and Barry hits himself in the nose. Omar then mocks him for wiping the blood away, as this represents the jihadists that will be inspired by the mosque bombing, and he's wiping out the revolution...
Barry starts recording a video taking credit for the planned bombing of a mosque that he intends to blame on unbelievers.
Barry asserts, "You cannot win an argument just by being right." Even Waj points out the lack of logic in that one.
When a police sniper tells his partner that the person in a Wookie costume he shot wasn't the target, the second sniper responds, "It must have been the target, because I shot it." (with the same logic repeated by Malcolm Storge MP when defending the police and the government's failure to prevent the attack at the end of the film: "As I understand it, the police shot the right man, but the wrong man exploded.")
When Barry's car breaks down, he blames "Jewish spark plugs", on the basis that "Jews invented spark plugs to control world transport!"
In order to convince Feisal to bomb the mosque, Barry (notice a theme, here?) asks if his father has ever eaten a Jaffa orange. When Feisal answers in the affirmative, Barry says "Right, he's buying nukes for Israel, he's a Jew."
Jerk Ass: Barry. The others get a few Pet the Dog moments and generally seem to not quite understand the implications of what they're planning on doing, but Barry is just a terrible person from the word go
London Doubling: Some of the London scenes are Sheffield city centre. Barry blowing up looks like the corner of Hawley Street and Campo Lane. Also, while the exterior of Meadowhall is shown, its interior is mostly played by another Sheffield shopping centre, Crystal Peaks.
Losing Your Head: Feisal, literally and metaphorically; Hassan fails to clean up the Ludicrous Gibs properly and Feisal's head is found by the police.
"I told you... it was a knee!"
"It was a head! It was obviously a head!"
"It had a hinge!"
Man Child: Waj brings a toy gun to the shooting of his Jihad video, reads children's books, and his conception of the afterlife is that of a theme park ride. To a smaller degree, the rest of the protagonists are all crushingly naive. Conversely, Omar's son is shown to be pretty sharp when Omar tries to justify suicide bombing by way of The Lion King. In his defense, they're children's books meant to teach Urdu... which he nonetheless can't finish.
Played for Laughs: Stupid idiots killing themselves for a cause they don't understand? Innocent civilians being murdered? Cruelty to sheep? Check, check and check.
Police Are Useless: Jury is still out on whether they're more or less incompetent than the suicide bombers but they attack and arrest Omar's peace-loving brother in the middle of a meeting with his Muslim friends whilst Omar is stuffing nitroglycerin into a Honey Monster outfit, they shoot an innocent marathon runner dressed as Chewbacca and after a naive negotiator (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) completely flubs the Waj hostage situation, they break in and shoot his hostage, meaning that two entirely innocent people were killed directly by police incompetance
Poor Communication Kills: The negotiator tries to make small talk with Waj and asks Waj if he's an "ass man", meaning does he find butts more arousing than boobs, but Waj misunderstands it as an insult-"Who you calling Ass-Man?" and gets angry, breaking down the negotiations.
Quote Mine: Intentionally invoked and subverted with some of the movie posters. Instead of the usual three-word out-of-context reviews from each of the main national papers, they just show the word "Funny" about seven fifteen times.
Reality Is Unrealistic: A recurring criticism of the film is that the portrayal of Omar's family as loving and stable is an unconvincing, heavy-handed attempt to humanize a would-be suicide bomber. Morris has pointed out that this aspect of his character actually has a basis in a number of real life terrorists.
It's pretty ironic, and chilling, seeing Omar at home with his wife Sofia, both of them apparently far more "Westernized" than his orthodox Islamic brother, yet he's the one arguing against violence, while they're planning it.
Also similarly with some of the promotional art material. Shows the gang in their costumes, but Faisal is missing.
Truth in Television: In an interview with NPR Chris Morris stated the film was based on research he'd done after 9/11 that led him to believe many would-be terrorists are completely incompetent. He claimed that the 'bomb the mosque' scene is taken verbatim from an MI-5 surveillance transcript.
Women Are Wiser: Suggested, but ultimately averted. Omar's wife seems like a down-to-earth woman, but as the film progresses, we see that she's completely onboard with Omar's plan to kill himself, and doesn't seem to have the slightest problem with him leaving her a widow with a young son. Critics found this to be unrealistic, but the filmmakers asserted that real terrorists often have remarkably stable home lives.
Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Lions never refer to themselves or think of themselves as "Terrorists" and actually view themselves as holy warriors fighting the evils of Western Imperialism. More often than not, they refer to themselves as "jihadists", which is taken from the translation of the word "jihad" as "struggle". On the other hand, other rebel groups that employ similar violent tactics against British society, which the Lions are planning, are referred to as "terrorists" by the Lions. Specifically, when Feisal mentions his "IRA voice" to Barry, Barry chastises him for using a "terrorist" voice which could blow their cover.