[I'm pretty sure I wrote this "way back" bust after watching the movie on the small screen. I can't imagine what cinema goers made of it!
Sometimes the hype surrounding a movie is so misleading that the only decent thing to do is plot bust it, so that others need not suffer, just to find out what all the fuss is about.
By the way, this is the first time I've ever posted anything on the internet that might conceivably raise a red flag with the security services. So, if you're reading this, girls and boys, "ha, ha!" You come out of it even worse than the jihadis!]
Four Lions (2010) is a British satirical black comedy film co-written and directed by Chris Morris, starring Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Arsher Ali and Adeel Akhtar.
In the end, disaffected young Muslim father, Riz Ahmed, is reduced to detonating his suicide bomb in a shop near the route of the London Marathon. (No, it really is supposed to be a comedy!)
Forced to return home to England early from Pakistan after unknowingly killing Osama Bin Laden in an accidental rocket attack on a terrorist training camp at which he had hoped to receive guidance from a senior Jihadi, Ahmed and his simpleton friend, Kayvan Novak, find their angrily demented co-conspirator, a white English convert to Islam, Nigel Lindsay, has recruited a new member to their supposedly underground cell, Arsher Ali, an equally publicity hungry protester against perceived Islamic oppression by Western culture and society.
Hiding the failure of his and Novak's mission, Ahmed pretends that the group has received the go-ahead to conduct a terrorist attack. So the group set about turning their stockpile of peroxide hair bleach, naively bought wholesale by fifth member, Adeel Akhtar, into explosive, despite being unable to agree upon a suitable target for their action.
Fearing that their cover has been compromised when Ali unwittingly invites a neighbour into their bomb making safe house to enjoy some bhangra rap, the group are forced to hurriedly relocate the materials they have so far prepared to Lindsay's allotment shed. Tragically Akhtar is blown to bits during the move when he stumbles and falls on the volatile material he is carrying.
Devastated by the loss of Akhtar and exasperated by the ineptness of the others, Ahmed abandons the group to Lindsay's false flag proposal to blow up a mosque, intended to radicalise the moderate Muslim majority.
Realising that the discovery of the remains of Akhtar's blown off head may lead authorities to the group, and inspired by a work colleague's request for an outfit from his family's fancy dress business to wear for charity while running in the London Marathon, Ahmed relents and persuades the others that the event and costumes present the perfect target and cover for achieving their ambition of martyrdom.
Unfortunately, when the costumed and bomb laden group eventually arrive in London, Ali loses his nerve and attempts to surrender himself to a policeman they encounter, prompting the determined Lindsay to remotely detonate Ali's explosives.
In the ensuing chaos, not only are a couple of innocent bystanders gunned down by the police, but both Lindsay and Novak's explosives are detonated, one accidentally and the other deliberately, before Ahmed resigns himself to targeting a high-street pharmacy, a suggestion originating from Akhtar that Ahmed had previously dismissed as unworthy of consideration.
To answer the original question posed, of course idiots can be just as terrifying as those that know what they're doing. But, a movie like Chris Morris' debut feature is bound to raise a whole raft of other questions. What motivates people to religious extremism? Is it possible for good people to do bad things? Does unwittingly doing something good during the course of your actions justify your evil intentions? Is it possible to make a comedy about suicide bombing? The movie only really provides an answer to the last of these. Because there are plenty of laughs to be had from the bungling incompetence and ignorance of these would-be terrorists, right up until the moment they start blowing themselves and the innocents around them to smithereens. At which point the movie reveals its true colours as those of a tragedy dressed up in a comedy disguise.
Perhaps another question that Four Lions unintentionally manages to answer is "is it possible to make fun of Muslim terrorists without incurring their wrath?" Well, yes it is. You can portray them as ignorant and as stupid as you like, as long as at the same time you paint the authorities and society ranged against them as corrupt and intolerant, persecuting the innocent and pious alike, while divorcing those perpetrating the violence from the religion that drives and informs them. Oh, the cleverness of Morris!