We like to laugh at the things that really scare us – as if giggling in the face of death and destruction somehow removes them of their power. Or maybe it’s just an acknowledgment of the truly perverse sense of humour which underlines so many aspects of the modern world. Still, years after Team America: World Police demonstrated that nothing is truly sacred and gave us lines like ‘hey, terrorist, terrorise this!’ or ‘durka durka mohammed jihad’, it’s reassuring to know that the war on terror and religious fundamentalism aren’t taboo subjects. A comedy about a suicide bombing training camp, I’m quite interested to see how Four Lions turns out – if only for its fascinating pedigree.
For those unfamiliar with the movie – which just premiered at Sundance – it’s from the team that brought us Brass Eye. For readers unfamiliar with the concept of Brass Eye, it was a satirical news show which professionally made an ass out of authority figures in the UK and most famously gave us a special on pedophiles with Simon Pegg in a neckbrace. It’s not a show that has ever gone ‘softly softly’, but I reckon that’s part of the reason it has endured as a short of pop culture legend, with the kind of edge and cheek that modern satire aspires too.
According to The Guardian, the producers sum up the film as follows:
Even those who have trained and fought jihad report the frequency of farce. At training camps young jihadis argue about honey, cry for their mums, shoot each other’s feet off, chase snakes and get thrown out for smoking … Terrorist cells have the same group dynamics as stag parties and five-a-side football teams. There is conflict, friendship, misunderstanding and rivalry. Terrorism is about ideology, but it’s also about berks. … [The film]understands jihadis as human beings. And it understands human beings as innately ridiculous.
Anyway, it’s reassuring to know that in a world where Roland Emmerich can’t destroy Mecca we can still laugh at the hijinx of boys hanging out with explosives in the middle of the desert. It’s the kinda thing which has a huge potential for misfire (I can hear the protests and condemnations faintly in the distance already), but I think it might just be the perfect comedy for the moment – add a dose of welcome mockery to a very harsh and frightening reality. After all, if we can’t spoof their complex interpersonal relationships and day-to-day life in the jihadist movement, then surely the terrorists have already won.
I’m flagging this one in advance as one to watch – it has cult hit written all over it.