REVIEW BY THOMAS FUTTER
The FBI is the single largest recruiter and funder of domestic terrorists in the USA. This fact seems ridiculous. Even the film’s writer and director, Chris Morris, admitted at the Q&A that accompanied the Cameo Cinema’s first UK showing of the film that his first reaction was to dismiss this statement as “insane”. But, years later, he discovered it was true. The FBI regularly sweet-talks groups, who would otherwise have no ways, means, and in most cases interest in committing atrocities, into planning acts of terrorism. It then arrests them and claims the credit for stopping the acts that they planned in the first place. After further years of intensive research, and nine years after his last film, Four Lions, the Day has finally come for Morris’ new work, the story of Moses (Marchánt Davis), a delusional preacher trapped inexorably in the consequences of that fact.
If this synopsis intrigues you, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you watch this film. But don’t watch the trailer. It gives away nearly every single plot beat, including moments just minutes before the end. This is a shame because the escalation of the stakes is one of the film’s most rewarding aspects. The film gets funnier and funnier as the situation veers out of every character’s control, and the final 20 minutes is the most hilarious section of all, which is rare for a comedy and so rewarding to watch unfold. I imagine it would be even better if you don’t know details in advance.
But the other reason the trailer is so damaging is because The Day Shall Come is by far Chris Morris’ most understated work. This is not to say that it is less angry than his past work. The film is laced with contempt for the actions of these authorities, but it deliberately maintains a low key tone rather than the more visceral approach of Four Lions. Where this works, it really works. Marchánt Davis is phenomenally captivating and sympathetic in his first film, and the seriousness with which the film treats him and his plight allows him to shine even brighter. Andrel McPherson is also fantastic as his accomplice. The weakness of the approach can be seen in the treatment of the FBI, who emerge far less bruised than most of Morris’ past targets. Rather than getting across the anger that Morris has shown in his press interviews, the FBI scenes instead play like a below par version of Veep. All four of the credited writers worked on that series, so the similarity is unsurprising, but they fall into overfamiliar rhythms and the insults dished out feel surprisingly flat.
Despite the accomplished performances and the hilarious finale, the weaker dialogue in the FBI scenes ensure that The Day Shall Come falls short of the highest tier of the Chris Morris canon. But if every other director's lesser efforts were as accomplished as this film, the world would be a richer place.
The Day Shall Come is in cinemas now.
Reviewed as Film of the Week, in partnership with Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh.