For better and worse, we often seek to understand disaster through the lens of stories we’ve heard before. We still don’t know if today’s blasts were a terrorist attack, or, if they were, what sort of terrorists might have been responsible. But following the first reports of explosions at today’s Boston Marathon, the minds of many flashed upon the ending of the 2010 film Four Lions, in which a small group of terrorists target the London Marathon.
Four Lions, among the blackest of black comedies, follows its satirical convictions through to the very end: In the finale, the bumbling jihadis manage to detonate themselves within blast radius of several police officers and civilians. It’s a grim conclusion that stunned many audiences into cathartic laughter in 2010, but it won’t elicit many laughs today. For many, for a long time, it will be a horrible reminder.
For those struggling to make sense of terrorist attacks, Four Lions does remind us of the kind of thinking that allows them to recur again and again. At one point in the film, one terrorist tries to rally another behind the cause of a senseless bombing. “Listen to your heart,” he says. “My heart says this is wrong,” responds the other. The first, desperate, retreats to ideology in an attempt to justify his actions: “What does your head say?”