"Four Lions," the feature debut of notorious British provocateur Chris Morris, will indeed provoke righteous indignation, serious thought -- laughter. It's a challenging and often hilarious study of a group of bickering, homegrown terrorists as they plan suicide bombings in London. It's not your usual comedic fodder, but the director and co-writer's extensive research and profound intellect elevate the film above mere farce. Even the casual slapstick comes from Morris' conversations with journalists and actual jihadists, and these religious extremists' petty arguments seem not unlike those of any group working closely together.
It begins with an idiotic attempt at a jihadist video that reveals the personalities of the would-be heroes: the ultra-aggressive Barry, the dim-witted Waj, the nervous but dedicated Faisal and the intelligent Omar. Engagingly played by Riz Ahmed, Omar doesn't seem to fit the profile. He's a loving family man with a supportive wife, good job, friends; he seems fairly cosmopolitan. In an ordinary film, he'd be the MI-6 plant.
But this is an extraordinary film, which plays its premise for laughs and for something deeper. Even small gags are actually insightful, such as Waj's bullheaded insistence on facing east to pray even when he's at a training camp in Pakistan — east of Mecca.