"Rubber dinghy rapids, bro!"
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. Truth in Television for Islamic fundamentalists who oppose terrorism.
- Ad Lib: Most noticeably is Waj's "Fuck Mini Babybels" line that was added on the spot by Kayvan Novak.
- Affably Evil: All of the main characters - except the Ax-Crazy Barry.
- All for Nothing: Well, all for some tampons and cotton buds.
- "FUCK MINI BABYBEL!"
- 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."
- Bilingual Bonus: Omar frequently swears in Urdu.
- Black Comedy: The blackest.
- Bland-Name Product: The jihadists coordinate online through a children's browser game called Puffin Party.
- Blatant Lies:
- "That bag's full of... really fragile... boots."
- The lions claiming to be a bunch of gay men instead of terrorists
- Bloody Hilarious: Feisal and the sheep end up in a binbag.
- 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.
- California 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.
- 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.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Alice.
"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.
- Coincidental Broadcast: Omar is riding a tram when he hears a news broadcast about Feisal's head being discovered through its televisions.
- 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: The Downer Ending emphasizes this. Omar's Actual Pacifist brother gets treated as a terrorist, an innocent hostage is killed by the police and they remain adamant that he wasn't one. Crapsack through incompetence and implied prejudice.
- Deadly Euphemism: Omar tells his wife that his group is about to perform their suicide bombing by saying that he's "taking his team upstairs." He has to say it this way because he's in public, within earshot of police.
- Double Meaning:
- 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."
- Downer Ending
- 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.
- Epic Fail: But their fail is our win.
- 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." He also, a lot more understandably, reacts like this to Barry's plans to blow up a mosque, and is ultimately unwilling to manipulate Waj into blowing himself up when he demonstrated having changed his mind.
- False Flag Operation: Barry intends to carry one out by bombing a mosque while posing as kuffar, in hopes of radicalizing moderate Muslims and causing them to rise up in protest. He then records a video in which he identifies himself as a Muslim and takes credit for the bombing of the mosque.
- 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.
- Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Barry's justification for Jihad.
"Islam is cracking up! We got women talking back! We got people playing stringed instruments! It's the end of days."
- Hypocritical Humour:
- 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).
- I Have This Friend: In this case Omar's friend is called Simba.
- Initiation Ceremony: Barry makes Hassan insert a bean into his penis and Waj piss into his own mouth.
- Insane Troll Logic:
- 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
- Kick the Dog: "YOU BROKE THE CHICKEN'S BEAK!"
- 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 (in his defense, they're children's books meant to teach Urdu... which he nonetheless can't finish), 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.
- Martyrdom Culture: Deconstructed, with idiocy.
"He'll be in heaven before his head hits the ceiling!"
- Mistaken for Gay: How they get rid of Alice, who apparently doesn't like gay people.
- Mistaken for Terrorist: Played with several times.
- Mood Dissonance: Every other scene.
- Mood Whiplash: Many times-it's by Chris Morris, fer chrissakes.
- The Neidermeyer: Barry.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The poor unwitting first-aider who comes to Barry's aid, and the police who burst in just in time to distract Waj from Omar's order to give himself up peacefully.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: An attempt to take out a US UAV ends up killing Osama Bin Laden.
- Nitro Express: The five wannabe mujahideen have to transport home-made explosives. They try to drive carefully, but hit a tree. They then have to do a very silly run the rest of the way.
- No Animals Were Harmed: None except the Baa Bomb.
- No, Except Yes: "It's not a cupboard! It's... it's a small room."
- Non-Indicative Name: The film is called Four Lions, but there are five main jihadists in the film. One doesn't make it to the Title Drop, however.
- Noodle Implements: *pulls out a weetabix*: "We know a lot more than you think!"
- Oh Crap!: Two of the three lions present◊ who witness Feisal's death. The other is too stupid to immediately comprehend what's happened.
- Oop North: Set and filmed mostly in Sheffield. Omar works as a security guard at Meadowhall. The hospital scene is the main entrance of the Northern General Hospital.
- Only Sane Man: Omar. And he's not especially bright.
- Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: The end credits include a disclaimer stating that the London Marathon did not co-operate in the making of the film (the Marathon scenes were filmed in Sheffield).
- 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 incompetence
- 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, stable and westernized 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.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Explored inside-out in hilarious/shocking fashion.
- Debatable, but the sequence with the police shooting the wrong person at the marathon reminded some viewers of the controversy over the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes.
- Hassan Malik's name may be a particularly dark one to Nidal Malik Hasan, who was responsible for the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting.
- Showntheir Work: 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.
- Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: Literally, and delivered in person.
- Spoiler Title: Four Lions is a movie about a gang of five wannabe Jihadists. It's not exactly a surprise when one of them doesn't make it to the attack.
- Stupid Crooks: Stupid terrorists, in this instance.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Omar. Although he's not exactly the sharpest nail in the bag either.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: Waj's response to being asked what his demands are by a police negotiator-"I... I don't think I have any..."
- Title Drop: At the beginning of the final act.
- Too Dumb to Live: All of the conspirators are this to some degree. Waj's last words end up being a sort of admission of this.
- Torture Cellar: Ahmed's ultimate destination.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Feisal is seen blowing himself up in the trailer, and he's missing from promotional art material.
- Made worse by the Spoiler Title: With the name Four Lions and there being five members of the gang, it's pretty easy to figure out one of them will die, especially when they start stupidly playing with explosives.
- Undignified Death: Practically all of them.
- Villain Protagonist: The Lions themselves, as a sympathetic portrayal of Jihadists.
- The War on Terror: Terror Alert Level: Red.
- Windmill Crusader: The Lions claim that they are trying to defend Islam from western oppression and tyranny, but while they might have a shred of a point in a broader geo-political sense, it's quite telling that pretty much all the non-Muslim characters who they know or encounter are perfectly decent and respectful towards them, and they never face any kind of injustice or intolerance due to their religious beliefs.
- Women Are Wiser:Zig-Zagged. 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.