Sunday, 19 November 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2010: Riz Ahmed in Four Lions

Riz Ahmed did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Omar in Four Lions.

Four Lions surprisingly somehow works as a comedy about a group of rather westernized jihadists in England.

Riz Ahmed who seems to be slowly breaking out, most notably with his very dramatic role in the mini-series The Night Of,  despite being a terrorist leader this is not dramatically minded role...for the most part. Ahmed instead plays essentially Moe Howard of the Three Stooges as the "brains" of a group of the dimwitted fanatics. Ahmed's performance is therefore to be the wrangler among the group more or less. Ahmed's performance is interesting in turn, like Moe Howard actually, he has to be sort of the straight man but also comedic in his own way as well. There is much of it as purely the Moe of the group in terms of dealing with the overt stupidity of the rest of the group particularly the constantly angry convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay) with a varied amount of dumb ideas on how they should go about being a terrorist cell. Ahmed brings the right type of exasperation in every little reaction to this, but also the more direct vicious anger proper for a Moe Howard type. He's especially hilarious when he breaks down Barry's idea of bombing a mosque to the moderates to become radical, as Ahmed brings nothing but the most extreme disbelief and derision in every breath as he explains how stupid the idea is.

He's also the straight man to the other idiots in the group though Ahmed brings as much of a certain confusion towards their incompetence he handles it a bit differently particularly towards the simpleton Waj (Kayvan Novak). It is here though he is again the Moe as he has to wrangle them towards the cause though again Ahmed portrays a certain way. This is very important in terms of maintaining the tone of the film as Ahmed never portrays Omar, the most competent of the men, still realistically as a jihadist. When Omar goes about encouraging, or really manipulating, the other men Ahmed doesn't bring the passion of a true fanatic, as that really wouldn't be funny. Ahmed instead approaches it basically as a guy trying to almost form kind of a band, a band he takes seriously yet can't quite get his guys to work properly together. He doesn't deliver his words to them as these passionate views of a mad man, but rather of a fairly stressed out guy just trying to make what they're doing work. This is right down to an early scene where he sees his men's terrorist videos, where Ahmed reacts again less as a man looking at horrifying propaganda, but rather a front man being very disappointed in his band members' music videos.

Now in proper Moe Howard form Ahmed, though the most intelligent of the men, is also a bit of an idiot he's just better at hiding it from himself. This is right down to their motivation where they are group yet couldn't be more westernized themselves. This is actually especially true to Ahmed's portrayal of Omar, which is again never exactly true to his intention. Again what makes this work in a comedic sense is that Ahmed stays pure to this throughout the film, and plays it as being perhaps somewhat oblivious to this contradiction. In turn Ahmed is consistently funny in portraying just how comfortable technically Omar in this such as his full embracing of a jogging neighbor while he and the men are transferring their explosions. Ahmed carefully shows not a hint of actually hating anyone, other than his own men, which I feel is key to making the film's tone work. The whole time Ahmed portrays this as less something he truly deeply believes in a dogmatic sense, but rather because it is something that has been decided for him. Even when he announces his intention to go about suicide bombing to his wife, Ahmed delivers his veiled statement as though he's decided to finally go on vacation or something.

A pivotal element in Ahmed's performance actually though is that he doesn't wink at any point and stays true to his character of Omar, which makes both the character and the tone of the film cohesive. This is as Ahmed portrays Omar most at ease at essentially not be a fundamentalist terrorist or even a fundamentalist in any way. This is particularly important to the few scenes Ahmed shares with a more religiously observant Muslim, who is not a potential terrorist, where Ahmed brings such a petulance in his treatment of the man. Again this should almost seem nonsensical however Ahmed makes it entertaining yet somehow natural to the character, and his skewed views towards his own religion. In every moment where he's actually trying to be terrorist Ahmed's great by showing Omar frankly at his most idiotic, such as his classical prat fall when firing a bazooka, or the whole final sequence where the men go to blow themselves up wearing ridiculous costumes. Ahmed makes for the right type of physical embodiment of awkwardness, however he goes even further to slowly throughout the sequence portraying the realization in Omar over his mistake. He ends up creating a bridge the film to a more dramatic intention as he attempts to talk Waj out of it. Ahmed manages to make this transition work, without somehow going too heavy, despite the film ending the way it does. Ahmed's performance, much like the film, is this incredible balancing act that manages to be quite entertaining while somehow making light of the dark material, yet somehow also create some depth to it. It shouldn't work, but it does, and Riz Ahmed's astute performance is one of the greatest contributions in making it so. 

53 comments:

RatedRStar said...

What was your favorite joke/line in this film Louis, because I think there is like at least 30 to 35 laugh moments in this. =D.

Omar Franini said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the rest of The cast?

RatedRStar said...

I am thinking which comedy has the most laughs in it in the 2010s, I think this surely has to be a contender.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: I completely love the moment when Faysal and a sheep get blown up in a field. Nigel Lindsay's reaction made it even better for me. :)

Luke Higham said...

*Faisal

Omar Franini said...

Luke: that's my favourite scene from the movie :)

Calvin Law said...

'Barry the Sufi Muslim council's coming out your nose'. Brilliant performance.

RatedRStar said...

Luke is a Wookiee a bear?? =D hehe.

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar:

Fight with a fictional man.

Omar:

Lindsay - 4(He's quite good at being the absolute worst in every scene. Whether it is his false smugness at the town meeting, or his false assurance that specified target plan will work. Lindsay brings the right type of desperate bravado particularly in the aforementioned scene where he so passionately, yet so weakly defends his theory. Lindsay's such a perfectly contemptible idiot in every way, and provides a great foil to Ahmed more levelheaded idiot, and the more straight forward simpletons.)

Akhtar, Ali, Novak - 3.5/3.5/4 - (All work great at being such simpletons so effectively. Special mention though goes to Novak for being rather endearing and eventually rather heartbreaking by bringing such earnestness to everything he does especially when he starts mixing up his brain and his heart.)

Cumberbatch - 3(Short, but I thought he was pretty funny in offering another type of man trying to put on a false confidence. I especially like his rather weak way of asking if their conversation can get back on the subject of women.)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: What did you think Of Faisal and the sheep getting blown up. :)

Luke Higham said...

Can't wait for Mikkelsen's review. Really hope he gets a 4.5. :)

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Hilarious, technically sort of classical slapstick while taking the important lesson from A Fish Called Wanda in terms of the depiction of the act itself, made all the better, as you mentioned, by Barry's logic for the act being some sort of success.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Saw Novitiate. I actually ended up really loving it, save for one performance that tragically seems to be its only Oscar bid.

Luke Higham said...

Robert: Didn't care for Leo? What would you give her.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Your pick for Richard Boyle in a 2010s version of Salvador?

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Oh and would Mickey Rourke be your choice for Terry Malloy in an 80s version of On the Waterfront?

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan L.

Joaquin Phoenix, and yes.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Luke: Probably a 2. She's like one of those punching nun puppets come to life.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top ten male leading and supporting performances of the 1930s.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: who would you have picked to do The King's Speech instead? In a funny way I feel like even a very workmanlike director could've made it great.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Who would you cast for a remake of Barry Lyndon?

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I do think it had potential to be a great drama. The screenplay and Rush were it's greatest strengths but I hate most of Hooper's direction King's Speech onwards, more so with The Danish Girl. I agree with Louis on Firth, even though I liked him quite alot on first viewing. (I actually think his best work is in The Railway Man) And I'd replace Carter as well.

Anonymous: I remember Louis saying that Hardy would be his choice in a 2010s remake, though I'd say he would've been great in the 2000s as well with his TV period work in The Virgin Queen and Wuthering Heights.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Has anyone seen The Handmaid’s Tale? Because I’m currently rewatching it and Alexis Bledel’s performance has grown on me even more. She might be my MVP actually. Has anyone seen her performance? And if so what did he/she think of it?

Anonymous said...

The Man Who Invented Christmas is getting good reviews so far, very happy for Dan Stevens.

Michael McCarthy said...

Giuseppe: I've seen it, and I mostly really like it. Bledel I think is very good, as is the rest of the female cast. I'm probably the only person who feels this way, but I think the MVP is Yvonne Strahovski.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: apparently Its Always Sunny might go on a season without Glen Howerton.

Louis Morgan said...

Finished the Logan/Logan Lucky/Lucky trilogy of the year by watching Lucky, which might be my favorite of the trio.

Calvin:

RON HOWARD, kidding, however that would've been a better film. John Madden, Ang Lee or maybe Lone Scherfig.

Tahmeed:

Lead:

1. Peter Lorre - M
2. James Cagney - Angles With Dirty Faces
3. Victor McLaglen - The Informer
4. Charles Laughton - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
5. Edward Arnold - Come and Get It
6. Clark Gable - Gone With the Wind
7. Robert Montgomery - Night Must Fall
8. James Stewart - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
9. Charles Laughton - The Private Life of Henry VIII
10. Clark Gable - It Happened One Night

Supporting:

1. Pat O'Brien - Angles With Dirty Faces
2. Cedric Hardwicke - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
3. Thomas Mitchell - Stagecoach
4. Louis Wolheim - All Quiet on the Western Front
5. Claude Rains - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
6. Bert Lahr - The Wizard of Oz
7. Frank Morgan - The Wizard of Oz
8. Eric von Stroheim - The Grand Illusion
9. Edward Arnold - You Can't Take it With You
10. Boris Karloff - The Criminal Code

Anonymous:

Hardy as Barry, Elizabeth Debicki as Lady Lyndon, Taron Egerton as Lord Bullingdon, and Ian McKellen as the narrator.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on Lucky and the cast.

Calvin Law said...

YES. So glad you loved Lucky. Hope you either give Lynch a high rating or save him.

Calvin Law said...

Pleasantly surprised to see O'Brien so high for you too. I was just thinking also that James Woods and Harry Dean Stanton would be great in a 70s Angels With Dirty Faces.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I'll keep this brief since I'm going to have a lot more to say on it later. Lucky for me was a combination of The Straight Story, Paterson, with a nice sprinkle of Ikiru for good measure. It has been described as a love letter from one character actor to another, and what a love letter it is. I loved every low key moment of the film that so quietly yet so poignantly examines a life lived.

Saving Lynch.

Livingston - 3.5(Really enjoyable work at first in portraying such funny slightly fearful reactions towards Stanton, then is genuinely moving in portraying the man's story in such an awkward yet earnest way of trying to connect with Lucky in some way. Wouldn't have minded more of him, but that's kind of the case all around in terms of the supporting cast.)

Begley - 3(Funny bit of sort of his usual thing, nice example of it.)

Henley - 3(I'm quite sure Henley should run every bar, or diner in ever film. Anyways Henley's enjoyable in just his casual natural back and forths with Stanton.)

Skerritt - 4(So glad we got this Alien reunion, wouldn't have minded seeing Veronica Cartwright and Yaphet Kotto. Wonderful one scene wonder to be sure. Loved every second of his scene as brings such a powerful sense of history in every word of the story, and it is incredibly moving as he describes the haunting experience so beautifully. I especially love how naturally he sort of goes from that nostalgic just shooting the breeze to exploring something deeper in his past.)

Darren & Grant - 3.5(I really liked the little window we got into their relationship as they balance this definite sweetness while having sort of this earthly bluntness. I especially love the showdown at the end with Grant, and Darren's attempt to offer his own inspirational words to Lucky.)

Calvin:

Well as much as Dennis is my favorite character and Howerton is the best performer I am interested to see what they might be able to do with it. I could easily see them skewering how other shows usually broach losing cast members, though I certainly hope he comes back.

Psifonian said...

Dig this new "Phantom Thread" spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Evu5NMPrXf4

Guys, I really think we need to be looking at Vicky Krieps as a potential dark horse for a Best Actress nod, even in this stacked field. Focus has deigned to run her in lead rather than gunning for an easy supporting slot, which leads me to believe that a.) Manville has a juicy enough role on her own that they don't want to split love between them, and b.) they are confident Krieps could make a stand on her own.

Also, PTA has called it his take on "Rebecca."

Louis Morgan said...

Psifonian:

That spot is spectacular. Actress is going to be a tough nut to crack though given that there is only four free spots now in that stacked category with the reported reaction from The Post screening.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on the title song from "New York, New York"?

Calvin Law said...

Yeah Skeritt's scene was spectacular.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the following scenes from these films-
Inglorious Basterds
'Once upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France'
The Bar
Shoshanna's demise (used to think the scene was tonally out of place with Bruhl's performance, but I feel it makes more sense now)
The burning of the theatre

A Fish Called Wanda:
'Revenge'
'Don't call me stupid'
Fish and Chips

Calvin Law said...

Louis: honestly I thought Skeritt was probably the best choice for a reunion scene, Kotto would have been a lovely addition too but it might've been too 'wink wink' for the film, and could also see Cartwright in Grant's role but Grant was great anyway. I would say though that it would have been awesome to have had Kotto and Cartwright on Twin Peaks.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Also, I must say that I don't mind Colin Firth's Oscar win, because *gasp* I actually like his work. That saving said, I haven't seen the film in an insanely long time.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

*being said.

Calvin Law said...

Tahmee: he's my least favourite out of the nominees but I don't mind his win at all, either.

Henry W said...

Would Montgomery Clift and Orson Welles be your guys choice for a American remake of The Master as the characters of Freddy Quell (Clift) and Lancaster Dodd (Welles) in the early 1950s?

Also, with reference to his work in Manchester by the Sea and Gone Baby Gone, would Affleck be a good fit for the roles of Brando or Clift in the 1950s?

Robert MacFarlane said...

Does anyone else have a Letterboxd account?

Alex Marqués said...

Robert: Me! I'm AlexDude :)

RatedRStar said...

Robert: I have one as well although I am still finishing my list, ive basically just been doing a 1927-2017 sets of lists of films that I have watched and then ranked overall, it will take a while lol.

Luke Higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Your ratings and thoughts on Mads Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising and Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Oh Jesus Christ, Lasetter now. I need a goddamn drink.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your rating and thoughts on Richard Conte in House of Strangers.

RatedRStar said...

Ive actually nearly finished my 1927-2017 rankings, just need to tidy it up a bit, I am quite surprised by some years in which I havent seen that many films such as 1967.

Anonymous said...

Louis: How would have you improved Quo Vadis?

Omar Franini said...

Just saw The Square, this year Palm d'or and i really like it;
Bang: 4
Moss: 3
Notary: a difficult performance to rate, and i might request him in the future.

Louis: what's your rating and thoughts on Barbara Hershey in The Public Eye?

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France - (Well Tarantino does well to take from the absolute best by reinventing Angel Eyes's introduction from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Tarantino uses that setup and structure though to craft his own brilliant sequence. The most brilliant aspect of it perhaps being Christoph Waltz's portrayal of Hans Landa's method of destroying the French farmer as he begins so charming, so innocuous yet when he reveals his true nature it is terrifying. Denis Menochet's performance should also never be forgotten in making the scene as potent as it is with his mirror of the man's brittle facade slowly falling apart. The moment of Landa in his full intensity staring against the broken farmer is perhaps the greatest moment in the film. The whole scene is technically a arrangement on a song, and shows just how incredible that can be.)

The Bar - (Minor quibble out of the way first, I do find it a little hard to believe the dead drunk soldiers would before as well as they did in the shootout, but again that's just minor. I love the rest of the scene that is a classic World War II spy scene given new life by Tarantino. In terms of the bare requirement Tarantino stages the scene so effectively, and builds that tension so well, particularly the sudden reveal of Gestapo agent lurking in the dark. The rest though is just a beautifully dark dance of dialogue with that slowly erupting tension particularly through Fassbender's and Diehl's performances which make for such perfect rivals in the scene. They do so much as you can see both working the situation in their eyes even as they speak only with the utmost grace the rest of the time. My favorite moment in the scene is just before the violence erupts actually though we the brief pleasantry between the two especially Diehl's delivery of "as you wish colonel" in English, as sort of a soldier's courtesy before they die.)

Shoshanna's demise - (In regards to Bruhl I think that is a natural outburst to the character as in the moment Zoller is coming to her trying to open up in some way and at his most vulnerable she brushes him off again that leads to his seemingly out of character outburst. I'd say that was the moment where Zoller, who had always tried to be as pleasant as possible, even had enough. It's an outstanding scene as I love the way Tarantino plays with essentially the clashing of the two's assumed personas as they see themselves but also as they see each other. That's is with Zoller rejecting his status as the Nazi hero, and gentleman briefly, then Shoshanna initially disposing of him as though he is nothing but a useless Nazi, as she had treated him, until the moment of finally killing settles on her as she finally sees him as a person only for his inner Nazi to come out right then.)


The burning of the theater - (An interesting scene as we get to see Tarantino perhaps do his largest scale spectacle sequence of his career, and it's one of his best. This almost a purely visual sequence and what glorious madness it is. Tarantino brilliantly emphasizes the red of the fire and the hall, amplifying the carnage at every turn as though the Nazis are being swallowed by hell itself. The top off for me though is the smoke projection of Shoshanna laughing as though some otherworldly specter granting the final judgment, as she technically is.)

Louis Morgan said...

Revenge - (One of the funniest scenes from any film as every bit of timing, dialogue, action, and performance is absolutely hilarious. "Winners like Vietnam!", "It was a tie" "You gonna kill? mmmm yes old boy" "It's kkkkkkenn ccccoming to kkkkkkilll me" "REVENGE" "Come on Ken you don't have the guts? Okay you have the guts" I could quote the whole thing as everything is comic gold, though it is all topped off by that visual of just the very slowly moving steamroller narrowing down on Otto.)

"Don't Call me Stupid" - (Well another hilarious scene of course, potentially typical, though would still be funny setup, of the husband hiding his mistress with his wife unexpectedly appearing. Cleese is a delight in bringing in that awkwardness throughout the scene however it is thrown into the cosmic space of hilarity through the use of Otto and Kline's whole performance. With that it goes truly mad starting with the introduction of Harvey Manfredsoonnnnon with his ridiculous story, and Kline's assured yet somehow incompetent delivery as he falls apart against Archie's wife. Kline's reaction to just hearing stupid couldn't be more perfect as though it is something of instinct to Otto, and I love that Aitken provides the right presence to believably be the one person who simply stares down Otto, and his nonsense.)

Louis Morgan said...

Fish and Chips - (This scene caused a man to die from laughter. I think that speaks for itself. It is possible to see why since the scene doesn't let up it just goes further and further with every fry, then every fish, and the dueling performances of Palin hilariously taking the scene so seriously "technically speaking", while Kline treats it with such levity. The two just keep building on the concept and it only gets funnier and funnier until poor Wanda is swallowed with that horrible, yet hilarious "uh oh, see what you did" reaction of Kline's.)

Matt:

Well it is the best part of that film, well that's easy, but it is a brilliant song. It's always funny how it is seen as some Sinatra mainstay despite not originating it. I think part of the reason being it sounds like it could be an old mainstay of his from the old days, but it wasn't. Of course I mean that as a great old mainstay, and there's a reason it managed to become sort of anthem for the city itself of sorts. Love the way it builds with the intro slowly building in the orchestra again and again that always supplements that vocals which are so dynamic, particularly with Minelli's whose rendition I prefer actually, that captures such a joyous spirit in every word. It manages though to just keep building to such a glorious end.

Calvin:

I wasn't in earnest in regards to Kotto and Cartwright. Although I would like to see them in something notable.

Anonymous:

Conte - 3(It's a decent performance though the whole idea behind the film, and its pseudo remake of Broken Lance is the central performance of the son doesn't quite capture a man's life shattering over losing a false image of his father. Conte hits some beats well enough, however it just doesn't quite match the needed intensity to realize that central concept.)

Anonymous:

Get Wyler to direct it, get Heston or Douglas for Marcus, get Rains for Petronius, keep Ustinov.

Omar:

Hershey - 3(I kind of liked her chemistry with Pesci however I did not feel she was able to properly capture her character's more duplicitous motivations. When she does what she does there just isn't that impact that there should be. She however does make up for a bit because of how well she works with Pesci, but the betrayal of sorts at the end doesn't have the power it should since she doesn't create enough investment in her character's actions)