Cinema Interviews Podcast

Interview: Riz Ahmed and Nigel Lindsay on Four Lions

Four Lions marks the feature film debut of Chris Morris as a director and it is the story of four suicide bombers in a Northern town struggling to plan an attack on the London marathon.

Omar (Riz Ahmed) is disillusioned with how Muslims are treated around the world and determined to lead some kind of attack on the West. His protege is Waj (Kayvan Novak) who is enthralled by the thought of doing something exciting. Meanwhile Barry (Nigel Lindsay) is a white Islamic convert who has issues with Omar, whilst Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) tries to experiment by strapping bombs to crows.

After pioneering work in radio (On the Hour, Blue Jam) and TV (The Day Today, Brass Eye) Morris has always had a sharp, satirical eye for how controversial subjects have been presented to the wider public.

With this film he tackles the issue of contemporary religious extremism by focusing on the naive ineptitude he encountered through his research in to the subject.

It might seem counter-intuitive to make light of a subject which continues to have such serious consequences, but as recent events in New York have proved, comic ineptitude can often be a feature of the attacks that don’t work.

In some ways this is a sister film to Armando Ianucci’s In the Loop – whereas that focused on the dark political comedy that lay behind the war on terror, this explores the farcical nature of terrorism on the front line.

I recently spoke with Riz Ahmed and Nigel Lindsay about the film, what it was like working with Morris and why it seems to have touched a nerve at the UK box office.

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Four Lions is out now at UK cinemas

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> Riz Ahmed and Nigel Lindsay at the IMDb
Official site
> Find out if Four Lions is playing at a cinema near you via Find Any Film
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Cinema Thoughts

Four Lions


The feature directorial debut of Chris Morris depicts a group of bungling suicide bombers and alternates slapstick comedy with sombre satire.

When Four Lions was first announced, this promised to be another taboo-shattering project from one of the most brilliant satirists of his generation. After pioneering work in radio (On the Hour) and television (The Day Today, Brass Eye) which lampooned media and politics with diamond-sharp precision, it seemed like a bold and fascinating prospect.

Set in an unnamed northern town, it centres around four disenchanted young men: Omar (Riz Ahmed) is the unofficial leader and determined to become a martyr for oppressed Muslims around the world; Waj (Kayvan Novak) is an impressionable recruit who does what Omar says; Barry (Nigel Lindsay) is a white Islamic convert obsessed with operational detail; and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) is struggling trying to train crows to fly bombs through windows.

Morris has said that he conducted an enormous amount of research into the subject of Islamic extremism in modern Britain and there are veiled references to the July 7th bombings, the failed attacks of 2007 and other stories of home grown terror since 9/11.

There are many sequences which depict the incompetence of young men trying to cause terror and frequently failing. But perhaps the most interesting thing is how Morris complements their comic idiocy with the shallow despair of front line jihadists trying to find meaning in murder.

The result is an interesting patchwork that falls somewhere between comedy and drama. In terms of Morris’ previous work, it is a long way from the slick ingenuity of The Day Today or Brass Eye and much closer to the creepy discomfort of Jam, the television version of his radio show Blue Jam.

But even these comparisons aren’t exact. If anything, this is a spiritual sibling of In the Loop, another film about the War on Terror, directed by Armando Iannucci who previously worked with Morris on The Day Today.

Although that film focused on the political hypocrisies behind the War on Terror, Four Lions depicts the moral absurdities of the War of Terror.

Where it really hits home is in the relentless focus  on the desperation of suicide bombers as they struggle with the moral and practical dimensions of killing themselves for an ideal.

Comedy often arrives in surprising bursts, often involving surreal touches like processed cheese, rap and a group sing-along to Toploader’s Dancing in the Moonlight.

This hilarity is tempered by more ambiguous scenes involving the strange motives of ‘family men’ who think that it is moral to kill innocent people or are just too confused to even tell the difference.

The acting is of a high standard, especially Riz Ahmed in the main role who gives his character a surprising emotional depth despite the buffonery going on in other sections of the film.

Like In the Loop, the script is undercut with a biting intelligence but is less successful than that film in giving a wider context to the motives of the main characters.

There are scenes in the final third that touch upon the security forces response to terrorism but – without giving too much away – they don’t quite paint the rounded picture Iannucci achieved with his film.

Overall this is ultimately a brave and commendable attempt by Morris to tackle a tricky subject. For the most part it works well, but the film where he unleashes his many talents to full effect probably lies somewhere in the future.

> Official site
> Four Lions at the IMDb
> Find out more about Chris Morris at Wikipedia


Trailer: Four Lions

The first full length trailer for Four Lions, the new comedy about suicide bombers directed by Chris Morris.


> Four Lions at the IMDb
> More about Chris Morris at Wikipedia