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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Four Lions (2010)

Written by Chris Morris & Sam Bain & Jesse Armstrong; additional writing by Simon Blackwell
Directed by Chris Morris

Riz Ahmed:  Omar
Arsher Ali:  Hassan
Nigel Lindsay:  Barry
Kayvan Novak:  Waj
Adeel Akhtar:  Faisal

With Benedict Cumberbatch as a hostage negotiator (watch my hits go up now that I've mentioned him!)

How the hell did a comedy about wannabe suicide bombers get greenlit? Well, it didn't, the first two times the director / writer tried to get it made. Chris Morris talked to terrorism experts and law enforcement personnel as well as imams and ordinary everyday Muslims for three years while doing intensive research; if you're going to be making a comedy about such a hot-button topic you'd want to make the best-informed one you possibly could, I hope. After being turned down for funding twice and attempting a pre-Kickstarter crowdfunding effort, Film 4 gave Morris the go-ahead and he was able to make the film the way he wanted. It was reportedly screened for a Guantanamo Bay detainee (who was released without being charged in 2005 after three years of abuse and extrajudicial incarceration), who said there wasn't anything in it that would offend British Muslims. Certainly that's in the film's favor--or even "favour". It was barely given a release in the States, having been one of the first Drafthouse Films that made its way to movie screens; I got my copy in a $1.95 bin at a Dollar General.

The first thing the viewer sees is grainy video footage of a Middle Eastern looking man sitting crosslegged in front of a woven wall hanging, but the first thing they hear is the person shooting the video complaining about how that guy is sitting and mentioning that the camcorder battery is fading fast. A reverse shot reveals that four guys are sitting around in an apartment shooting their Jihadist video, not in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan. Waj, the one who appears on the video, is dim enough that when he goes over to look at the viewfinder, he's surprised that he can't see himself sitting down on the other side of the room. He gets coaxed back to his position and tries to strike a threatening pose, holding a toy AK-47 that's far too small to look anything but ridiculous in the video. Barry, the director (and the only white guy in the group), thinks it looks too stupid to tape while Waj suggests moving a lot closer to the camera and holding the replica gun out in front of him to "bigger it".

Another jump cut reveals the ringleader of the group, Omar, at a bright sunlit kitchen table showing the video outtakes to his wife and son; the picture of normality and happy domesticity other than the laptop playing a video about how the Western world needs to burn. Waj interrupts the message of doom and destruction to explain that even McDonalds serves a proper halal value meal and at a reasonable price. Omar's eventual verdict after watching several takes:  "They're all bloopers". (Omar's brother Faisal, another dimwit, put a box over his head because "images" are forbidden so he gives his speech muffled by cardboard and unable to see anything). It turns out that Omar and his brother are planning to go to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan to carry the global jihad to English shores. Omar just hopes that Faisal doesn't wind up running around the camp with a cardboard box over his dome. A look of distress and concern over Omar's face at how stupid he's going to look at the terrorist training camp leads into the opening credits.

Omar turns out to work as an overnight security guard at a mall; his days appear to be filled by two things:  looking at the endless blank spaces of the camera feeds as people clean the floors and listening to the endless descriptions of what his workmate had to eat over the weekend and how many kilometers the guy walked once he ate. Having once heard a coworker go on for ten solid minutes about the kinds of salads you used to be able to get at a restaurant that had been closed for decades, I can honestly sympathize with Omar's desire to blow things up. After getting an email from his "uncle" about whether or not he's going to make it to a "wedding" being held the next day, Omar suddenly asks for two weeks off. He tells his boss that it's an emergency ("What, an emergency wedding?") and gets cleared to move on to the next phase of his plan.

Back at the flat, Faisal, Barry and Waj are discussing whether or not satellite surveillance can see you when you're underground, and discuss methods of avoiding being seen (it's not enough to just take the battery out of your mobile phone). According to Barry, eating the SIM card in your phone is the only sure way to disable tracking and surveillance. Omar says that won't stop tracking (after everyone's eaten their SIM cards, of course) and tells everyone the good news that he's going to Pakistan for jihadist training. Barry wants to know why he didn't get the call--Omar says it's because he has an uncle in Pakistan, and Barry has one in Foulkston. Barry says he's primed and ready to go at any time, but Omar is hoping to do something more impressive than just blowing yourself up in a drugstore by yourself. Omar wants a four-pronged attack and massive casualties.

Yes, it's still a comedy. All the testosterone-poisoned insults thrown about wouldn't be out of place in a Judd Apatow flick. It's all about masculinity and the desire to be an effective person (for whatever definition of "effective" these four tools or the workmates of the 40 year old virgin would use). Barry says he's the "invisible Jihadi" here, while Omar thinks (more accurately) that he's a loose cannon--apparently to commemorate the 9/11 attacks the "invisible" guy baked a World Trade Center themed cake and left it at a synagogue as his part of the global struggle. If your life choices are so bad they make the news, you're not actually invisible. Barry gets even angrier and says he was hiding in plain sight. The camera switches to an outside view of the flat while Barry makes this claim; is this Morris' way of saying the characters are already under surveillance?

On the ride to the airport, Barry says he's already bought a ticket to Pakistan, so he's going with them whether Omar wants him to or not. Omar asks a question in Urdu, which the convert doesn't understand a single word of. The talks break down when Barry pulls over to the side of the road and eats the ignition key of his beater car--if he can't go to a terrorist training camp on another continent, nobody else can either. Omar and the others haul Barry out of the car, tie him up and throw him in the trunk while the white guy continues to list all the highly inaccurate things that will happen to the others in Camp X-Ray ("They're gonna pump you full of Viagra and make you fuck a dog!", etc.)--turns out Omar knows how to hotwire a car, so they don't actually need Barry driving to make their departure time. Faisal remains behind in the UK, hopefully keeping Barry from doing anything too stupid, and also taking care of his father (who is apparently slipping into dementia--seeing things that don't exist and making grand sweeping statements about what should be forbidden under his incredibly strict fundamentalist interpretations of Islam).

Over in Pakistan, Omar's uncle is less than impressed by Waj (the first thing he says on screen is "Is he as dumb as he looks?"; Omar says no but his friend has brought a "prayer bear" plush toy that recites sacred words--in English, no less--when you shake it. I'm starting to think that all four of the protagonists combined might make one competent jihadist, but that on their own each one is a disaster in their own unique ways. The elder warrior digs through Waj's luggage, asks (in English) if Omar is ready to kill his brother to serve the struggle, and (in Urdu) says if either of the pair screws anything up he'll stick them in the camp sewers, mouths jammed open. And then, of course, "peace unto you" before getting back in the car and taking them to the camp (although not before Omar and Waj have a scene where they declare they'd kill each other for the struggle, which reassures both of them about their place in the global jihadist network after it takes place).

As they arrive at the camp, Waj and Omar are late for morning prayers and Waj makes a really great first impression when he tries to face the wrong way (he doesn't realize that Mecca's in the same place but he's somewhere else on the globe). When one of the actual mujaheddin sees a drone in the sky everyone bolts and gets under cover; Omar picks up a Stinger and offers to shoot the plane down but 1) it's too far away to hit and 2) that would alert the US military to exactly where the training camp is.

Speaking of training camps, back in Sheffield, Barry is on a university panel about Islam and moderation where he vociferously objects to the use of the term "training camps" by another panelist right after he says it (and, in the way of belligerent assholes everywhere, immediately denies that he said that). That "low profile" is working out well, yeah? Barry's idiocies get overshadowed by someone in the audience who says as long as Western society is going to treat him like a suicide bomber he might as well be one--he goes on a hip-hop rant about how righteous his struggle is, reveals his suicide belt and sets it off (it is just little party firecrackers). Barry salutes him as campus security takes the guy out of the lecture hall. The new guy turns out to be named Hassan and Barry waits around to meet the guy--and it turns out that Barry's particular flavour of asshole masculinity works pretty well when trolling for new recruits. Sure, Hassan just met Barry two minutes ago, but he wants to impress the man (even after Barry says that people playing stringed instruments is a sign of the End Times; religion aside, Barry'd fit right in with a lot of the Rapture panic sellers in the States).

Back in Pakistan, Waj is firing an AK-47 in the air, talking shit to Omar about how authentic he looks now. This is bad enough to the real jihadists, but it turns out that taking a cell phone picture of it is even stupider--the authentic terrorists know that cell phone signals will reveal their position to the military, which probably means a drone with a Hellfire missile is being prepped to kill them all. The Pakistani mujaheddin say that Omar and Waj are staying behind to do maintenance on the equipment when everyone else goes to meet an emir and get funding for the struggle the next day, and then says the two "fucking Mr. Beans" are getting sent back to the UK before they get everyone killed.

Back in the green and pleasant land, Barry and Faisal (and Hassan) check out their stockpile of liquid bleach, which Faisal has been stockpiling for three solid years--he says the clerks at the wholesaler never figured out he's been buying so much more of it than anyone would need by disguising his voice different ways every time he goes there. Because nothing's less suspicious than the same person doing silly voices over and over while buying bomb-making chemicals. From the same store. For three years. It's even worse when Faisal says the other voice is his "I.R.A. voice"; Barry points out that he's disguising himself as a terrorist to cover up his terrorist activities. The viewer actually feels embarrassment and shame for poor Faisal at his incredibly dire disguise techniques--it's amazing how much sympathy the film generates for these four (now five) idiots even though they're planning to kill people in the name of a struggle they barely comprehend. They're all as English as tea time and cricket, incidentally--Waj keeps using the epithet "Paki" when he's actually in Pakistan talking to Pakistanis.

And speaking of Pakistan, Omar and Waj are enjoying a little recrimination time (Waj, realizing that everything is God's will, starts to worry that him being an utter fuckup is also God's will and thinks he might be doomed to hell as one of God's mistakes). Omar doesn't think it's as bad as all that, but he sure isn't happy that he's missing the meeting with an emir. When a drone comes up on the camp Omar picks up a Stinger tube (and doesn't notice the FRONT END stenciled on one side, or the arrow pointing in the direction of the rocket that's going to come out of the weapon). He fires it backwards and the missile lands exactly where the Pakistani jihadists were meeting with the emir; during the retaliatory fire Omar and Waj barely escape with their lives.

Back in the "safe house" in Sheffield, Faisal describes his plan to train bomb-carrying crows to go to "those towers full of Jews and slags"; Barry thinks things have gone past the trained-crow stage at this point. Barry's plan is to attack a mosque as a false flag operation, which will cause all the righteous Muslims to rise up against their "attackers" and lead to a holy war in the UK. When Faisal asks if Omar's okay with this (and Hassan asks who Omar is), the audience hears Barry give himself a field promotion; apparently, in the Gospel According to Barry the Jihadist Omar is one of his underlings, who got sent to Pakistan for field training. Barry's also an insane hardliner who says that Faisal's father is a Jew for having bought produce from Israel--which means it's all right to kill the old man if he happens to be at the service when the false flag attack goes down.

Barry might be an asshole and a bigot, but he's not utterly stupid. When Omar and Waj return with no luggage and only a couple days after they set out for Pakistan, he knows something went wrong. Omar bluffs through it, claiming that they have an emir funding their plan and that they've been given a green light to go forward with their plot. Omar is less than impressed with Hassan, and certainly doesn't like being on camcorder as he walks to Barry's piece of shit car. Hassan claims to have been tested by Barry (the "test" involves a bean and his genitals, for some reason; the reaction shot from Waj and Omar is pretty choice when they hear about it). Hassan says he can get a van from his rich father and as Barry's car fails to start. The recently returned leader of the cell bows to reality (Omar:  "He's either in or I've got to kill him, haven't I?" Barry:  "I knew you'd like him.").

After his return, Omar winds up telling a bedtime story to his son in which he conflates his accidental rocket-blasting of his fellow jihadis with characters from The Lion King, and while working his way through the story also tries to convince himself that it's the right thing to do not to tell anyone else in his cell how badly he screwed things up in Pakistan. It goes pretty poorly. But the next day he tells the other four terrorist conspirators that he's talked to the "emir"--using a kid's message site called Party Puffin; it's like using Neomail to plan abortion clinic bombings--and their next phase is getting all the stockpiled bleach to the safe house where they can boil it down into bomb paste. Omar's less than thrilled with the mosque-bombing plan ("Let's all staple-gun pigs to our foreheads!") and vetoes it. Other suggestions are things like bombing a chain drugstore for selling condoms.

Barry keeps voting for mosque-bombing, and gets talked into punching himself in the face as hard as he can to show how effective it can be to attack your own side to get the adrenaline flowing. Actually, he just really hurts himself and does not go mental enough to win the fight. Also, he takes the well-deserved mockery pretty badly when it turns out that bloodying your own nose is not very inspiring. Will he come to his senses and rejoin his friends in time to help murder dozens or hundreds of innocent strangers? Also, damn, the movie makes you actually care about the answer to this question as long as you concentrate on the five goofballs who are hanging out together and not thinking about what they're eventually planning to do.

Barry gets stuck hauling the big goofy animal costumes up into the "safe house" flat while Hassan and Waj play loud music and pretend to be a band as their cover story. Barry figures a noise complaint and a suspicious copper would end their plan before it can even begin, Barry also directs the others to shake their heads really fast as an anti-surveillance technique--they'll come out blurry in the photos. I'm sure that doesn't look suspicious at all to anyone reviewing security footage in the common area of the block of flats. Omar gives Waj and Hassan the sensible advice that in no way will come back to haunt everyone:  The next time Barry gives them an order, don't carry it out.

A new character gets introduced here--Alice is the next-flat neighbor; she's also slow and spacey when she talks, so she's possibly incredibly stoned or just as dimwitted as, say, Waj. She sees everyone taking the animal costumes out of the van but it doesn't look suspicious to her at this point; it's just a bunch of friends hauling bulky stuff up to the second story and stowing it in someone's apartment. Barry's up there making a jihadist tape about bombing the mosque to strike at the Western world (Hassan points out several flaws with his reasoning, especially the part where an Islamic terrorist can't take credit for the mosque bombing if they want ordinary Muslims to be radicalized by the attack).

Back at Omar's house, his brother Ahmed drops by to try and talk some sense into him (and the voice of reason comes from an imam so devout and pacifist that he won't be in the same room as Omar's wife because she's a woman, and who doesn't like the idea of Omar's son playing with a water pistol). Unfortunately, nobody's particularly willing to listen to reason and there's a squirt gun fight where Ahmed drops his pacifist tendencies because nobody likes being made fun of and being squirted with water. This scene also paradoxically shows how modernistic Omar is (he's wearing exercise clothes) and doesn't have a four-inch beard like he's supposed to in order to show he's devout. And he very obviously loves his wife, who might be wearing a headscarf but isn't stuck in her own tiny cupboard of a room like she's "supposed" to be according to implied interpretations of scripture.

Later, at Barry's flat, the first batch of rendered-down bleach explosive works (they test it, in the manner of young idiots everywhere, by having one person hold a tiny bead of it on their hand and someone else lights it. The video they're taking for posterity could be the jihadist version of Jackass). This scene also demonstrates for the audience how unstable to explosive goop is--either setting it on fire or striking it sharply makes it detonate. And it looks like Faisal might be having second thoughts about this whole "strap a bunch of home-brewed explosive gel to yourself and detonate it as an act of war" plan. The next time we see him, he's off on his own trying to rig up a bomb to a crow; the second piece of exposition gets dropped here; the bombs are going to be detonated via a cell phone signal. The crow bomb goes off before Faisal can make the call, leading to a cloud of feathers on the wind as well as what appear to be a series of surveillance shots of Faisal's reaction, scrolled through with the sound effect of a keyboard key being pressed. We the audience don't get to see who's taken the shots or looking through them at this point, though.

Barry, left to his own devices while Omar is at work, blows up Omar's microwave with a test batch of explosives, using a fireworks display as cover. This scene is shown through night-vision camera effects and all five of the main characters have been accounted for when the screen goes green and grainy. When everyone gets back to the flat (with Barry picking an argument with Omar over whether the ringleader said "my jihad" or "our jihad" while complaining that he should have been there for the microwave getting blown up), it turns out that Hassan has invited Alice over to dance around and listen to some kind of remix of "Dancing in the Moonlight". With all the chemicals, electronic wires, bolts (the cheapest shrapnel they could find), and costumes out in the open in the flat. Omar says it's time for Alice to take off, and she accuses the group of being a group of secret homosexuals, which shows that Waj isn't the only one capable of putting two and two together and coming up with "tree frog". Alice is also homophobic enough to just say she isn't everyone's friend any more and takes off.

Hassan gets assigned the cover-maintaining job of killing Alice (the only weapons in the flat are Barry's pocket knife and a fork Faisal brings out of the kitchen). But that just turns out to be a way to rattle Hassan about what a stupid security risk he took; Omar declares that instead of committing a murder that would instantly be traced back to the flat it's time to move the incredibly unstable explosives off to somewhere else. This leads to everyone jammed into Barry's car with jars and bags of stuff that will blow up if it gets bumped too hard and Barry driving like an asshole on a bumpy road. The car's engine craps out partway through the trip (Barry blames Jewish parts for his shoddy repair), and everyone takes shopping bags full of horrifically unstable explosives out so they can walk the rest of the way. A jogger that Omar knows happens by and tosses them a temporarily forgotten bag after one of those I AM TOTALLY NOT ACTING SUSPICIOUS! conversations; thankfully, Hassan has good enough reflexes to catch it but everyone shrieks in panic. He also passes off everyone's running posture as "squat jogs", a method of training the thighs for marathon running. His jogger friend tries it out as he leaves, of course. Half the joke about the encounters with the white English characters seems to be that if they were just more paranoid and racist, they'd notice the plot and be able to call the police to stop it.

Everyone's in Barry's decrepit back garden other than Omar, who's catching up as fast as he can and Faisal, who's running like mad to get there with the last load of explosives. The four other terrorists cheer him on as he hops a fence and runs through a sheep paddock, at least until he slips, falls, and goes down with the inevitable result. By the time Omar gets there Hassan has gathered up his fallen comrade's mortal remains in a trash bag and Barry's trying to put a brave face on things by claiming the sheep that was also blown up was a blow from Faisal to disrupt the food supply of an enemy nation. Omar's had it, declaring that Faisal isn't the first martyr of the ultimate jihad, but rather a stupid dickhead who got himself killed through carelessness. Perhaps seeing what an incredibly bad idea this has always been, Omar decides that the mission is off. Everyone being who they are, this degenerates into an argument between Barry and Hassan about who killed Faisal more through negligence and fearmongering. And once Omar asks if it's true about Faisal's martyrdom, Barry's quick to take credit for his death. Waj decides to take a little credit too, and says that they have to blow up the internet in Faisal's memory.

That's the absolute last straw for Omar, who tells everyone off and stomps out in the rain to coincidentally run into Ahmed playing football in the rain with a few other imams. Everyone's carrying umbrellas, because they're smart enough not to get wet. This probably means something. Omar almost lets himself be vulnerable enough to ask his brother for help, but can't quite bring himself to do it in the end. And he winds up on that puffin-themed chat site, apologizing to Waj later that night. Waj might be too handicapped to finish even the kids' books about Islam that are the only way he's been taught about his faith, but he isn't self-loathing enough to stick around and listen to Omar again, even on an arctic-bird based children's website. He's just been dismissed by all three puffins representing the remaining jihadists when his wife shows up to ask what he's doing with his laptop at the kitchen table in the middle of the night.

When Omar tells his wife about Faisal's death, she says it must have been part of the divine plan. Omar cannot bring himself to believe that God's paying attention to a bunch of idiots like his co-conspirators. But eventually he realizes that if he's not in charge, Barry will be and that'll be the end of everything. And Omar still plans to kill himself as a strike in the global jihad (which is weird, because he seems to be the most level-headed one of the group by far). He just doesn't want to do it for nothing. The conversation wakes up Omar's son, who also approves of dear old Dad's imminent martyrdom and says the classically sick line "He'll be in heaven before his head hits the ceiling". I am utterly unable to resolve the paradox between Omar's loving, stable home life and his perpetual desire to kill himself in a way that will murder innocent people as a ticket to heaven. The closest I can come is by quoting a Johnny Cash lyric:  "You're so heavenly minded you're no Earthly good".

A news report the next day mentions the head of an Asian man that fell out of a tree and almost hit a man's dog while they were out for a morning walk. The incident happened far enough away from Faisal's death that things won't immediately be traced back to the conspirators but they'll have to move fast. It turns out the London Marathon is the next day, and his coworker Matt, the guy who jogged past them back before Faisal blew himself into kebab chunks, is running it in a goofy costume (like many other competitors). Suddenly all the pieces are together, at least for Omar. There will be huge crowds of spectators, live news coverage and a perfect way to disguise the bombing gear by wearing goofy animal suits.

But nobody's willing to listen to him, at least partially because he hurt their feelings. Omar apologizes sincerely to his friends, and Barry tells him you can't win an argument just by being nice. Or right. I'm not sure about that last one, and neither is Waj. Scenes of the four jihadists mending their bridges with each other are intercut with shots of dozens of police in heavy SWAT gear crowding around the block of flats in nightvision shots. Just as the decision is made to bomb the marathon and Omar declares the group to be the four lions of the title, the cops burst in and smash down the door...of Ahmed's study group (and the small cupboard room with the women segregated inside, of course). And the most dangerous thing anyone in there has on them is a plastic water pistol, of course. When Omar stops by the hospital where his wife works, he manages to tell her that the plan is going ahead in the most transparent code imaginable, literally under the noses of two police who were questioning her about the last time she saw Ahmed. It turns out that Omar's actually a really good jihadist.

There's a massive police presence at the marathon starting point, and the four terrorists are late to arrive so they're just off behind an aqueduct stuffing their funny-animal costumes with bombs and psyching themselves up for the last thing any of them are planning to do. Waj, as always, is the one who wants to do the right thing. It's too bad he's listening to Omar and Barry about what that is. His heart says that indiscriminate killing is wrong, and they shouldn't do it. And at this last point where they could back out, everyone tries to talk the poor bastard into going along with their plan. Just after committing everybody to the suicide bombing, a cop shows up and politely offers instructions on where the foursome should have parked. He also says they're going to die running in their costumes, which everyone agrees is quite likely, but as Omar says--it's all for a good cause.

Hassan panics and decides he isn't ready to die after all, which turns out to be terrible news for him and that helpful cop because Barry has the cell phone that can send a detonation signal to everyone's gear. Scratch one jihadist and one policeman, and suddenly this pitch-black comedy isn't so amusing any more. And the remaining three suicide bombers are now ready to go. One last argument between Barry and Omar leads the mastermind behind the entire plot to realize that he's just murdering a simple man, and his friend, to score points in a religion. He runs after Waj to try and stop things, with Barry in close pursuit and a crowd of police in less close but still fervent pursuit.

The streets are packed gutter to gutter with running Londoners when Omar sneaks into the throng; Waj gets intercepted by police and runs into a kebab shop and reveals to the police that he's got a bomb in his ostrich-riding cowboy suit. He orders the shop owner to close the security shutters and now he's got several hostages inside, but can't get out. Worse yet, the police know two of the costumes (Omar's in a big fuzzy orange bear suit referred to as a "honey monster" that I don't recognize because I don't watch British TV, but the police know to kill whoever's in a bear suit). Barry's still a wild card, fittingly enough.

Oh, and it turns out that some random other guy in a Chewbacca costume looks like a bear from behind, which is really too bad for him when the police snipers shoot first and then ask if a Wookiee is a bear later. One of the arguing snipers gives a sadly relevant to America in 2015 justification for taking out the wrong costumed runner:  "Well, it must be the target, I just shot it".

Back in the kebab shop, it turns out that everyone trapped inside are Muslim, so if Waj sets off his bomb he's only going to be killing people nominally on his side. Which means he's actually carrying out Barry's plan, and Barry's an asshole. Tragically, Waj isn't smart enough to realize that himself and just tells everyone that if Omar was there he'd be able to explain the necessity of their deaths much better than he can. Just after he says that, Omar--who ducked out of the race and is hiding in a cafe in full costume--calls him up to try and call the whole thing off, because even now it isn't too late to stop what they've set in motion. Waj lets all the hostages go but one on Omar's orders, but when the mastermind tries to explain how he took advantage of Waj and set him off on a horrible path, things go surreal--Waj feels so good about joining the jihad that he can't be talked out of his path. He also takes a picture of his face and sends it to Omar to prove that he isn't feeling confused. That's probably the most sensible thing he's done all movie.

Unfortunately, Barry shows up just in time to snag Omar's phone, kick him in the bollocks, eat the SIM card so Omar can't talk to Waj any more, and run. Or rather, start to run, gag on the piece of plastic he ate, and inadvertently start choking. A random guy in the cafe knows the Heimlich maneuver, but he doesn't know that the guy in the ninja turtle costume is wearing impact-sensitive explosives around his midsection. Barry's last thought is probably worrying that he doesn't get credit for killing someone in jihad because they set off the bomb by accident, not him.

The movie, dark as it is, leaves nothing but smoke and costume shreds on the ground after this blast (or after Hassan got taken out, for that matter). The subject matter is pitch-black for humor, but leaving a five-foot-wide slick of blood and organs would push things just too far over the top to be funny. After all, Wile E. Coyote just got charred instead of mutilated every time he had a mishap with nitroglycerin.

While Omar tries to escape from the horrible situation he's in, a hostage negotiator calls Waj to try and see if he can't save one more life and shut down the plan. Too bad for him (and everyone) that Waj didn't have any demands and can't think of any on the spot. Even worse for everyone involved that Waj's explanation for why he's doing this make perfect sense to him and the viewer, but none at all to the hostage negotiator. Also, that negotiator is dogshit at his job, and manages to offend Waj while trying to talk about girls rather than make sense of Waj's talk about theme parks with no queue and rubber dinghy rapids. Waj hangs up on the guy. Omar borrows a phone from Matt the coworker (in a bunny suit, late for the marathon as well) and gets in touch with Waj just in time to hear the police shoot the wrong man to rags (when both people in a hostage situation are Middle Eastern, I guess you shoot the one facing the door and hope it's the right guy). Waj, terminally confused, sets off his bomb and manages to kill the most enemies for his jihad than any of the conspirators so far.

And there's nothing left for Omar to live for now, but he still isn't a murderer. He is the most wanted man in London and knows that it's just a matter of minutes, if not seconds, until he's captured. So he goes out on his own terms, destroying an empty chemist's and himself. Nobody learns anything. Nobody knows what inspired the plot, and everyone who had more than half a dozen lines in the film is dead. The grimmest, sickest joke of the film is still waiting to be sprung on all the remaining characters. One of the themes of Chris Morris' comedy work on television is the utter wrongheaded way the news media can be trusted to interpret things; the credits play over the official response to everything that happened, after the fact, and nothing at all is understood by anyone speaking into a microphone. It's an ending more out of George Romero than Monty Python, but given the subject matter I can understand not wanting to let the audience off the hook with any kind of catharsis at the end.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, sure, sum the whole damn movie up in a two-word sentence, just to show that I can't be succinct. Fine. FINE.