One could have been forgiven for flippantly wondering, when George W. Bush announced in November 2001 that any country harboring terrorists would be held accountable, which British city might be first on the list for U.S. air strikes. Manchester, perhaps? Bradford? Birmingham? Nine U.K. citizens in total have been held at Guantanamo Bay, a fact that, with apologies to Michael Winterbottom and his 2006 documentary Road to Guantanamo, was largely overlooked in the U.K. until the suicide-bomb attacks on London by four British Muslims on July 7, 2005. Without name-checking these events, Four Lions clearly takes its inspiration from the 7/7 bombings and emerges as a ruthless and thought-provoking exposure of British jihadism.
The fact that the film also happens to be a full-on, laugh-out-loud comedy will come as no surprise to followers of Chris Morris, who makes his feature debut with Four Lions. Morris spent the Nineties carving out with scalpel precision his position as Britain’s most notorious satirical prankster, mercilessly skewering broadcast media and entrapping third-rate celebrities into making bewildering public pronouncements on topics such as drugs, AIDS, and pedophilia, by relying purely on their own vanity and vacuity. Read Julien Allen’s review of Four Lions.