The Day Shall Come (15A)
Chris Morris has been here before. Ten years ago he made Four Lions, a film that satirised terrorism. Is this a good idea? In my view, no. Some subjects shouldn’t be laughed about and terrorism is one of them.
The Day Shall Come plays out as a kind of Elia Suleiman meets Sacha Baron Cohen by way of Stanley Kubrick. Moses Al Shabaz (Marchant Davis) runs a mission in the Miami projects with his wife Venus (Danielle Brooks). He’s the kind of man who’s happier with a crossbow than an AK47, happier travelling on a horse than in a stretch limo.
He’d like to see the government overthrown so black people can have more power but he’s a pacifist.
Aye, there’s the rub.
The FBI are desperate for a coup so they set up a sting operation to catch him. He’s struggling financially. He gets money to take guns from someone he believes to be a terrorist but who’s actually an FBI agent in disguise. He doesn’t want the guns but he wants the money.
The FBI have to radicalise him to make themselves look good. This is easier said than done.
As one of the characters puts it, he’s more Archie Bunker than Osama bin Laden. His threat level is “no more than that of a hot dog.”
This film is black jihad lite. The script has Pythonesque humour. “He’s a racist,” a character says of a purportedly neo-Nazi double agent, “but one of the good ones.”
Another great line is uttered by Anna Kendrick when Moses blows a horn as a SWAT team closes in on him: “It’s just the horn he uses to summon the dinosaurs.” In time maybe this howler will become as iconic as Peter Sellers’ “you can’t fight in here – this is the War Room” from Dr Strangelove.
Kendrick is the ‘good’ FBI agent trying to save Moses from incarceration or worse. Like her colleagues she’s on to his every move. Moses isn’t too bothered about being apprehended. He feels the Almighty will save him if and when ‘the day’ comes.
As Kendrick’s boss, Denis O’Hare plays one of those sardonic characters he’s been cornering the market on for some years now. Along with the rest of his team (Kendrick apart) he’s full of imperialist smugness. He’s the kind of character Donald Trump would like if he didn’t get the film’s irony (and he probably wouldn’t).
Kendrick is more empathetic, like Emily Blunt in Sicario or Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. I’m more comfortable with straight terrorist films like these. Morris has a gift but he should channel it into less toxic areas.
Nonetheless, watching the FBI use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut has laugh-out-loud funny moments. And one basically agrees with him that they really should find better ways to spend their time than taking down a preacher whose greatest offence is his penchant for spouting psychobabble.