Cinema Review: The Day Shall Come | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, November 14th, 2019  

The Day Shall Come

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Christopher Morris

Sep 26, 2019 Web Exclusive
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Chris Morris is the Devil. Well, sort of. He certainly has a similar reputation as an ingenious provocateur and a sharp-tongued conductor of chaos. Ever since his seminal satirical work on current affairs spoofs The Day Today and Brass Eye, Morris has been warping the souls of  unsuspecting UK TV audiences, but his international prestige was built largely on his feature film debut, the infamous jihadi comedy Four Lions. Now, after nearly a decade without his name front-and-center, he’s back with another feature.

Morris’ new comedy, The Day Shall Come, shows he’s clearly been keeping his irons in the stove. Much like his peer and regular collaborator Armando Ianucci (The Thick of It, Veep) Morris makes the jump to America remarkably smoothly. The film follows Moses Al Shabaz, a down-on-his-luck looney preacher and loose Nation of Islam analogue as his tiny operation is made the subject of an FBI anti-terrorism sting, regardless of whether it actually poses a threat. So far, so Morris.

Indeed, Moses is basically the prototypical Morris buffoon, and there’s nothing Morris (or his co-writer on this project, Succession showrunner Jesse Armstrong) revels in more than revealing human idiocy in every nook of society. Moses preaches a dogma that centres around a deistic respect for black santa; he dismisses guns as symbols of white oppressors whilst happily wielding a toy crossbow; and, in a more everyday mode of stupidity, buys a sack of black market potatoes without realising his spuds are just wooden blocks.

As you may have noticed, offbeat as they may be, these qualities are pretty harmless. That’s because The Day Shall Come is far more concerned with the shady tactics employed by the FBI in grooming and baiting prospective terrorists. The other side of Moses’ coin is Anna Kendricks’ FBI agent, Kendra Glack, a driven career-chaser desperately trying to pin charges to his goofy cronies in order to earn some gold stars from her seniors. It’s telling of Morris’ disdain for large scale bureaucracy that the film opens with the amusing-yet-terrifying statement: “Based on a hundred true stories”.

The disparity in moral equity between misguided-missionaries and terrorist-instigators is clear from the off. In their parallel introductions, Moses and his cronies rip off some prospective middle class pill poppers, but in their muddled morality elect to return part of the cash. Meanwhile, in a particularly funny sequence, Glack watches as a sea of stooges and agents coax a half-baked terrorist towards the detonation of an imagined cart bomb at a water park, even telling him it’s been designed to only harm adult men. Where Four Lions was challenging because it asked you to imagine religious extremists as scared and confused, The Day Shall Come is a much cleaner morality tale. Sadly, it’s less gripping for it.

If the FBI are the bumbling villains of the piece, chasing “the next 9/11”, then where does that leave Moses and his gang of four? The idiocy in Four Lions was grounded by a conflicting central character who approached his mission more level-headedly, but Moses is just too out of his element to evoke more than sympathy. He stresses a real world frustration with the gentrification of his community, but when it comes to definitive action, Morris has him fall back on imagined biblical acts. The closest we get to compelling commentary about African-Americans in the anti-terrorist era is the scrutiny law enforcement are now subject to in light of repeated profiling. “Black targets are no longer cool,” exclaims one of Glack’s schemey superiors, before they set up Moses anyway.

The real shame though, is that the comedy lands with more of a whimper than Morris’ past efforts. Any lack of prescient commentary would be forgiven if the film was funnier, but much of the material is wry smile-inducing rather than uproarious. It's an engaging script that's stocked full of Morris' requisite barbed back-and-forths and amusingly deconstructed double entendrés, but it also lacks for consistently killer set-ups and payoffs. Humour is subjective, but there’s a sense Morris isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Still, there are plenty of amusing sequences, including a particularly knotted series of miscommunications surrounding some weapons-grade nuclear canisters. In fact, if Morris was making films regularly this might only constitute a slight misfire, but after such a long draught the lack of electric, devilish insight lands harder. In our era of muddied political waters and copycat stoner bro studio comedies the opportunity for pointed satire feels rife. Regardless, it’s still refreshing to spend time with a calculated comedy that takes genuine risks.

(www.ifcfilms.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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