It's been four years since the general U.S. release of Four Lions, Chris Morris' pitch-black satire about a crew of inept wannabe suicide bombers in the north of England, and almost five since the movie debuted at Sundance. Since then, as many as 500 British citizens have left their homes to join ISIS, the terrorist group seeking to establish a fundamentalist Islamic caliphate in the Middle East, with one 21-year-old British national, Hamzah Parvez, sending an online message home to fellow Muslims urging them to join him. "Are we content with eating Nando's every week?" Parvez asks, referring to the inexpensive Portuguese chicken chain ubiquitous on British high streets. "Come to the land of jihad and shout Allah."
The jihadi preoccupation with fried chicken features in Four Lions' opening scene, where ringleader Omar (Riz Ahmed) and his exceptionally dimwitted friend Waj (Kayvan Novak) are attempting to film propaganda videos railing against decadent Western imperialism. As Omar starts to use the Big Mac as a metaphor for cultural degradation, Waj interrupts: "Flippin' idiots. You could have gone Chicken Cottage, proper halal, bargain bucket, £6.99."
Four Lions takes Charlie Chaplin's quote about life being a tragedy in close-up and a comedy in long-shot and inverts it. As a concept, terrorism goes beyond abhorrence, but the day-to-day intricacies of it are another story, like the tale Morris tells about how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed once held up a television interview for two hours because he was trying to find an outfit that didn't make him look fat, or the British jihadists who ordered Islam for Dummies from Amazon before they left for Syria. While public instinct is usually to mythologize terrorists as fearsome bearers of impossible doom, frequently the reality, as Morris deftly demonstrates, is far less imposing.