“Four Lions” and the Boston Marathon Attack

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Posted April 16, 2013 by Kristian Lin in Blotch
A raven is enlisted as a suicide bomber in "Four Lions."A raven is enlisted as a suicide bomber in "Four Lions."

In the wake of the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon yesterday, officials at the London Marathon (which is the next major event on the world marathon calendar) have stated that they will run the race as planned, and that they are ready for any possible assault. I believe that they’re prepared, and that’s partially because of a movie.

I’m talking about Four Lions, a comedy that drew huge audiences and huge controversy when it came out in Britain in 2010, because it depicts four Muslim terrorists trying to launch a suicide bombing at the London Marathon. That may not sound like a comedy, but this movie makes the terrorists into bumbling losers; when they go to a training camp in Afghanistan, one of them accidentally kills a bunch of his fellow terrorists by pointing the wrong end of a rocket launcher at an American drone. Look at the history of failed terrorist attacks in recent years, and it’s hard not to conclude that a lot of terrorists are really bad at their chosen profession. Outside of Britain, the movie didn’t create many waves, possibly because much of the humor is so specific to Britain. If you don’t know what jalfrezi is, you won’t get the joke that one terrorist makes after accidentally blowing up a sheep. Even with this, I still remember finding the movie very funny when I saw it on disc some 27 months ago. In fact, I included a selection from the film in my best movie dialogue of 2010 post. (Scroll about halfway down the post to find it.) I’m not sure how I’d receive the movie now, but I’m not the only one who was reminded of the movie when I saw the footage from Boston. Indeed, a British TV channel pulled the movie from its schedule this week out of sensitivity.

If you want to check it out, you’ll find that this is more than just a funny movie. It’s also a fairly serious look at why people become terrorists. The four guys (three South Asians and one Caucasian convert) all believe passionately in their cause, but because they’re idiots, you can easily see through their half-assed justifications for violence against not only nonbelievers but also fellow Muslims. This movie does pretty much everything Sacha Baron Cohen tried and failed to do in The Dictator. The tone of the piece turns sad as it takes in its main characters’ thoroughly bungled (but not wholly unsuccessful) attempt to carry out their attack. Even as it empathizes with the reasons why these men are doing what they’re doing, the movie uses humor as its weapon against them and anyone else who would use violence for political ends. One fundamentalist imam tells one of the terrorists, “Joking is a sign of weakness.” That pretty much says it all right there. This brainchild of British TV veteran Chris Morris and some brilliant comic actors winds up being deeply humane and deeply funny. While we all remember the victims of the horror in Boston and their families, you may want to check out Four Lions and have a laugh — a good laugh, not a cheap one — at the expense of the bombers of the world.


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