Dating right back to the early 90s the work of Chris Morris has had a habit of making people’s jaws fall open and stay there for a good while and so it continues with The Day Shall Come his second feature film.
The story “based on a hundred true” ones is set in Miami and finds young Moses Al Shabazz (charismatic and sophisticated newcomer Márchant Davis) lead a tiny, self-made religious commune. While holding ideas of overthrowing white oppressors and using telekinesis Moses is also delusional, believing God spoke to him through a duck (while Satan wasn’t watching). He is spotted by FBI agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick on good spiky form) posting on Facebook. The FBI have decided it is easier to catch terrorists that they have created rather than those that they haven’t so try to entrap Moses into procuring weapons, things don’t quite go according to plan.
The film shares a lot of chemistry with Morris’ last cinematic offering, Four Lions. Both deal with terrorism and our perception of it and both are set in unusual locales for stories of this nature, here we see a rundown, sun-bleached Miami emphasising the pathetic nature of Moses’s micro-threat to national security versus the gargantuan, imposing grey of the FBI offices we see later on. Further similarities abound in the approach to their protagonists, providing empathy and at times sympathy with characters that we are taught to demonise and look upon as faceless others. Just as some of the most moving scenes in Four Lions came during Omar’s homelife the central relationship of Moses and his wife Venus (a role smashed out of the park by Danielle Brooks) prove the most surprising and emotionally resonant. That Chris Morris has his finger on the pulse or could even predict the pulse has scant been in question but that he gives a portrait of a marriage in crisis so subtly and touching is revelatory in what many people may pigeonhole as a satire.
Those coming for a dissection of the bizarre hell-fayre we seem to be living through will not be disappointed though. Like his earlier TV work Morris takes the ridiculous and places it into the mundane to show how close we are to the unbelievable, see the escalation of events in the last half hour or watch a man ride a horse into an FBI building to see how logically we can arrive at the insane. Influence from old BBC 2 mucker Armando Iannucci is also present. The FBI office scenes have the handheld, chaotic nature of Veep (which Morris has stepped in to direct at times) and The Thick of It, just don’t expect the same baroque profanity tumbling-acts though.
The plot too seems to stem from the barely believable acts brewed up behind closed doors by Malcolm Tucker et al. In our post-truth landscape the film makes a very personal display of the ramifications of when impenetrable systems twist and manipulate people’s lives to suit a rather sinister end. It is a frightening realisation that the delusions Moses suffers are small fry compared to the machinations that are actually happening around him but could never see. Don’t worry though there’s a really funny bit about dinosaurs.
The film does a brilliant balancing act between showing the machine and the flawed, complicated, ridiculous people that live in and around it. This might be the most devastating, unexpected comedy of the year.
The Day Shall Come is out on general release from Friday 11th of October