TV Films of the Week

TV Films of the Week 39 - Four Lions

Sunday October 26, Channel 4, 10:05pm

As well as being a shoe-in for 2014’s biggest bogeymen, the rapid rise of Isis across Iraq and Syria has also brought the spectre of the homegrown jihadi back to the front pages. Besides the story of shoe bomber Richard Reid, the latter was a concept that played little part in the national consciousness until the London bombings of July 7, 2005. Amongst the resultant angst and soul-searching, satirist and director Chris Morris changed the focus of a project he was developing on the war on terror from one of international scope to something much closer to home. In doing so, Four Lions was born.

Despite its dark subject matter the film was widely embraced on release, with its extremely close to the bone comedy a standout for many audiences. Make no mistake, Four Lions has enough laugh out loud moments to justify its LOLcano status, even after repeat viewings. But it is as much a tragedy as it is a satire, thanks to a sensitively handled script and an unassumingly brilliant performance from Riz Ahmed.

Granted, the rag-tag group of wannabe jihadis his character Omar leads are a bunch of hopeless goofballs – hence the ensuing LOLs. However, underneath the humour lies much tenderness: Omar’s sweet (if twisted) relationship with his loving wife and son, the conflict he has with the brother that accuses him of subverting the true teachings of Islam and the ultimately caring friendship he shares with the perpetually confused Waj (better known as Fonejacker’s Kayvan Novak). By the final, devastatingly futile act, the lump that forms in your throat is inescapable. That such emotion can be engendered for men tabloid newspapers would encourage us to despise says much for power of Morris’s wonderful film.



Office Space
Saturday October 25, Film4, 9pm

Coming a couple of years before Ricky Gervais gave us The Office, Office Space is an equally delightful look at the crushing mundanity of the modern workplace. The familiarly sly humour injected by writer/director Mike Judge (he of Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill fame) might explain why it failed to catch on with a mainstream audience at the box office, but it has since (rightly) become a cult classic. Gary Cole almost steals the show as the boss who personifies smarm, although top honours have to go to Stephen Root as put upon, stapler-loving employee Milton.

Life Is Sweet
Monday October 27, Film4, 11:35pm
Secrets & Lies
Wednesday October 29, Film4 1am

Ahead of the release of release of Mike Leigh’s highly-touted Mr. Turner next week, Film4 offers us the chance to revisit two of his very best. What sets both films apart from conventional narrative cinema is their eschewing of ‘plot’, per se. Instead, Leigh uses them to explore the real drama that ordinary life throws at us all, be it awkward relationships, compromised dreams or the secrets that we carry like boulders upon our backs. By presenting a version of reality embellished only by the talent of the frequently excellent ensemble casts he attracts, Leigh never fails to show us just how fascinating it can be.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Wednesday October 29, Film4, 9pm

Much like David Simon’s The Wire, Beasts of the Southern Wild shines a light on a part of America left behind by the socio-economic progress enjoyed in more affluent areas – in this case ‘The Bathtub’, an island community situated amongst the bayous of Louisiana. Where Benh Zeitlin’s film differs is the filter of magical realism through which he presents it, largely due to the child’s-eye view from which the story is told. As Hushpuppy, the young girl burdened with an overbearingly wild father and the threat of an impending storm, debutante actress Quvenzhané Wallis (who was only six at the time) is a revelation.

Thursday October 30, BBC Three, 10pm

Yes, we may all have sampled the delights that Drive serves up – Ryan Gosling, that jacket, Carey Mulligan, ultra-violence, Bryan Cranston, a searing electro score, Oscar Isaac, fast cars – several times already. But Nicolas Winding Refn’s neo-noir remains quite possibly the coolest film the 21st century has produced. So sit back and allow yourself to be thrilled, horrified and seduced in equal measure all over again.

Follow Nick Norton on Twitter @OnlyForKoolKids