It is hard not to find this film funny, hilariously funny actually. Chris Morris’s narrative shows us that there is a flip side to being a Muslim radical, as depicted through the misunderstandings of our main characters.
Some sections of the Islamic community may express outrage at some parts of the film, but depending on where you stand, you can interpret this film in one of two ways.
It would be possible to take the quite obvious comedy to heart and view some of the elements of the film as a blasphemous insult to Islam.
Yet it is also possible to see the picture as a study of what can happen when the teachings of Islam are misunderstood and misinterpreted. Either way, certain scenes are outrageously, if not stupidly humorous; the film has you laughing more than thinking when presented with some of the most absurd situations.
Set in modern day London, the plot revolves around a group of friends intent on becoming Jihad suicide bombers by sabotaging one of the capital’s biggest events.
They start out as a group of four, adding and losing members as the severe consequences of their planning begin to take their toll, and guilty consciences slowly sew doubt in their minds. As they try to make threatening Jihad-style videos and immerse themselves in the world of their Islamic brotherhood, they encounter faith-testing hardships of comedic proportions.
Omar (Riz Ahmed), who is the film’s protagonist and head of the group, attempts to go abroad to learn the disciplines of the Jihad, but instead wreaks havoc and returns home. Omar is aided by his best friend Waj, the bizarre Fessal, new recruit Hassan, and the cockney-speaking Barry.
Omar acts as the brains and the experienced leader of the team who nevertheless neglects some of the obvious consequences he knows would follow if they went ahead with their plans. His wife and child are equally deluded in their understanding of Omar’s beliefs, which further helps him to blindly pursue his cause.
Ahmed, who appears destined for a big career based on this performance, plays the character well and cleverly shows the right emotion between leading his troops and creating a personal connection with family.
Just as Omar is an Asian but also a true British citizen, his partner in crime Barry (Nigel Lindsay), is a white Englishman turned Jihad radical who is more of a die-hard than his peers. Barry battles with Omar for leadership throughout the film, adding another subplot and humour to a film that is littered with both.
The film does not hide behind its humour but also delivers messages of right and wrong, belief, unity and sacrifice which obliquely reference the teachings of Islamic radicalism.
With a hand held technique and some intimate framing, Morris produces gritty realism and a smashing picture that is funny beyond all belief.