The Four Lions With the Most Extras

You have to be pretty daring to make a silly, yet almost warm - at the least, humanizing - comedy about Islamic terrorists in this day and age, and that's half of the fun of Four Lions. Writer/ director Chris Morris is no stranger to that kind of daring material, starting out on The Day Today, a kind of edgy news parody show in the UK, and moving on to similarly controversial UK shows like Brass Eye and Jam. But Four Lions is his first foray into proper feature filmmaking, and he certainly didn't play it safe. It's been getting critical acclaim all around the world, and made its way to DVD and blu by way of Drafthouse/ Magnolia Pictures in 2011. But I've found the German blu-ray from Capelight (also 2011) might actually be preferable.

Update 2/3/20: Added the US blu-ray to the comparisons, instead of just the US DVD and DE BD.
Four Lions is on the one hand a very typical comedy: a small group of bumbling friends with with big ambitions and naive plans bicker and struggle as they work together. They just happen to be Muslim terrorists living in Sheffield, England, bringing all the darkness and discomfort to the story that terrorism entails. They want to meet Osama bin Laden; their leader thinks it they should blow up a mosque to radicalize the moderates; they have to hide the fact that they're making bombs from their neighbors; they wind up running around in silly costumes as their plans routinely fall apart. It's a weird and hypnotic blend of "four guys start a small business" bro comedies and the most disheartening pieces on terror in today's news.

It's pretty effective and funny stuff, although admittedly, once you get past the outrageous audacity of the premise, a lot of it plays like a British sitcom. A smart, good sitcom; but still maybe a little light for the big screen. The whole film is shot in hand-held shakey-cam style, and a lot of the banter feels very improvised. Years in the future, when the world is focused on other threats, I'm not sure this will enjoy the critical darling status it has now, instead probably fading more towards obscurity. But even then, it will still be a good, smart comedy with engaging characters that's at least worth a watch.
1) US Magnolia DVD; 2) US Magnolia BD; 3) DE Capelight BD.
Now, as a contemporary, shot on digital film (and an often unsteady, handheld one at that), I'd say the transfers are pretty identical across the countries' editions, with little emphasis placed on the quality of the image in the first place; and the only important distinction here to note is between standard and high definition (which is certainly visible enough).  But it's not the absolute only distinction.  First of all, the film is matted to 1.85:1, except the DVD is actually displaying in 1.83:1.  There's actually no difference in how the film is matted or cropped; the DVD is just slightly vertically stretched. Thankfully both blus correct that.  And one more noteworthy distinction: the US blu is slightly brighter than the US DVD and German BD.  It's not a huge difference, but it looks slightly paler, making me prefer the DVD and German's blus colors.  But again, it's the sort of thing you'd never ever notice outside of a side-by-side comparison like this.

It's the extras and other things that make the distinction more important. For one thing, the US releases occasionally have burnt-in subtitles, for when the characters aren't speaking English. The German disc has those subtitles as optional.  All three discs have optional English subtitles for the rest of the film, but only the German disc gives you the full set of options: no subs, full English subs, or English for just the Urdu.  It also has optional German subs, of course, and the US discs have optional Spanish subs.

Audio-wise, they all have the original English 5.1 tracks, in DTS-HD on the blus, and the Capelight disc also has an optional German dub.
And then there's the extras. Now, most countries have more or less the same extras on their releases of Four Lions all around. Sometimes it's a little misleading with how they're titled. For example, you might see the Baraton Interview on the US disc and the Premiere featurette on the German disc and think the interview sounds more compelling and you'd rather have that... But now that I've got both discs in hand, I can tell you they're actually the same thing with different names. It's a short (4 minute) interview clip of producer Chris Baraton at Four Lions' premiere.

So, here's what pretty much every release has. That Baraton interview, 7 deleted scenes, two interview segments with real British Muslims that were used as research for the film, and a collection of some rather entertaining behind-the-scenes clips. Now, the behind the scenes footage seems to run about a minute and a half longer on the German disc than the US one, but after watching both, I didn't notice anything really missing from either one. They were shown in a different order, so I can't be sure I didn't miss a little clip that didn't carry over somewhere; but I think the difference in time is just how long the interstitial title cards stay on screen for.
But Capelight also took it a little further. Their first exclusive is an interview featurette called Filmstarts, which interviews Christopher Morris and star Kayvan Novak. This is the only extra that isn't entirely English friendly, but all the important content is. All the interview footage is spoken in English, but when they briefly cut away to clips of the movie, they play it with the German dub. This is a film that really calls for a lot from Morris in the extras, but you get very little; so this extra interview segment is a nice addition, even if it feels more promotional than in-depth.

Next up is a short film uniquely titled My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117. This is Morris's first film, from 2002, a quirky little comedy that actually won him the BAFTA for Best Short Film. It was previously released by itself on DVD in the UK, but it's pretty sweet to just get it for free here, and upgraded to HD to boot, where it's only been available in SD before.

Finally, the Capelight disc has the theatrical trailer, conspicuously absent from the the US discs. And there's a bunch of bonus trailers that play on start-up. But basically, it's about those two features and the subtitles.
So if you haven't yet, I do recommend seeing Four Lions. And if you're thinking of picking it up on DVD or blu, I definitely recommend importing the Capelight release. I don't think there's any question it's the preferable, definitive disc, since it has everything every other release has, plus more. However, if you've already got the film, I'm not sure I'd say the additional content is worth upgrading for. I guess only if you're a sure fan of My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117. But if you're starting fresh in the market for this film, yeah, the German disc is the way to go.

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