The BBC are running a story today which details the reaction to Four Lions, Morris’s debut feature film which is out in cinemas today, from some of the people who lost relatives in the bombings of the 7th of July 2005 and their call for cinemas and audiences to boycott the film.
It’s an understandable reaction to being told that someone notorious for making ‘shocking’ comedy about provocative subjects is making a comedy about suicide bombers in London, only this is misunderstanding its aims – Four Lions is full of tragedy and a cloying sadness and never fails to detail the bleak and misguided spiral of fear and anger which leads to terrorism.
Chris Morris has made a film which respects everyone expect the stupid, and holds a mirror up to our society with these ?fractured and scared people making an impossibly stupid and tragic decision. There is nothing in this film which seeks to make light of violent death, indeed every death which happens on screen is tragic, pointless and shocking, though there are very funny moments in the film these never stem from the murderous actions the group want to carry out.
Four Lions leaves the hyperbole and obvious rhetoric of the tabloid anger, which is an understandable reaction to the 7th of July bombers, and seeks to do two things. Firstly to show the incompetence behind the would-be martyrs and also it seeks to find the human story behind these groups, the jealousy and the cowardice, every negative emotion brought to boil and this is the most effective way of taking the power away from these people who carry out these actions.
I was in London on the 7th of July, along with millions of others, and I was living five minutes from Liverpool Street and Aldgate where one of the bombers struck. It was a sobering gut punch of a day in which my city and my home was hit four times and I recall the awful realisation visible on the faces of people on the streets as news filtered out. I can’t begin to comprehend the pain of those who lost loved ones in the 2005 bombings, and while they are condemning the film without actually seeing it their reluctance to see the film is understandable, but this film is part of the healing process – helping us to face the terror and see its flawed, human face.
On the 7th of July there was horror, then fear, then as the day wore on there was a defiance which carried thousands of stranded workers as they walked the streets of London trying to find their way out of the city. Four Lions is part of this defiance, channeled through an intelligent and undaunted moral compass and makes for uncomfortable viewing at times, but this is good. We need to be reminded that terrorism is here, thankfully very rarely resulting in tragic events like those of the 7th of July, but also that it is about people, not faceless armies waiting in the shadows.
The film is funny, as it was intended to be, but it was never going to be as simple as watching a buffonish terrorist cell blowing up crows and singing along to Toploader. Four Lions does not condone the actions carried out by these people, nor does it seek to garner sympathy for them, instead the only reaction is sadness. And it takes a film like Four Lions to make something worthwhile out of the tragedy of terrorism and I hope people do go out and see it today.