Directed by Christopher Morris. Starring Marchant Davis, Anna Kendrick, Denis O’Hare, Kayvan Novak.
The Plot: Moses (Marchant Davis) is a Miami preacher who has a small flock of followers. He worships Black Santa and wants to overthrow the temporary reign of white power with his three other lone wolves. He needs money though, as his family is facing eviction. He’s something of a revolutionary, but doesn’t believe in using guns. His actions draw the attention of FBI Agent Kendra (Anna Kendrick), who is anxious to impress her no-nonsense boss Andy (Denis O’Hare). She sets Moses up to buy nuclear material, but even she can’t get to grips with Moses’ crackpot plans to inform on himself and start a revolution with an army of four…
The Verdict: After an absence of 9 years, Christopher Morris returns to our cinema screens. The British satirist made a name for himself on television in the 1990s, often dealing with controversial topics via edgily uncomfortable humour. In 2010, he made his feature debut with the acclaimed Four Lions. It cut close to the bone as it followed four inept British terrorists who couldn’t blow up a paper bag. There’s similar DNA to be found in his new film The Day Shall Come, but from an American perspective – and all that comes with that. As the opening titles proclaim, the script by Morris and Jesse Armstrong is based on a hundred true stories. Stories of supposed American jihadists who were entrapped by the FBI into criminal activity, but were hopelessly unprepared to actually carry out their threats. While that doesn’t lessen the gravity of those threats, it’s a rich mine of material to formulate a pointed satire. Morris is just the man to tap into that and milk it for every laugh possible.
Morris sets the tone in the opening scene, when an undercover FBI agent attempts to get a suspect to trigger a (fake) bomb but the suspect has an irrational fear of the number 5 in the dial-in code. Then he introduces Moses and his revolutionary posse, who have a lo-fi approach to taking over which includes calling in the dinosaurs as back-up (!). Moses is clearly delusional but is also deadly earnest about his intentions. One senses that Morris admires his commitment to the cause, even if it’s based on crackpot theories that wouldn’t hold water . There’s a difference between thinking something serious and doing something serious, which obviously wasn’t in the FBI training manual in this film. Morris is an equal opportunities satirist. He shows no mercy in sending up FBI in-house procedures and their own inadequate attempts to pin the bad guy badge on whoever is nearby and more importantly the most convenient to get a result.
It’s that willingness to push the satirical comedy into deeper and edgier territory that makes the film more sophisticated and with more biting satire as a result. Take the twisted sense of humour with a pinch of salt and you might find yourself laughing more than you thought you would at a film about lower than low level terrorism. Or as Kendra scathingly dismisses Moses by saying that he has the heat signature of a hot dog. It’s that kind of film where the razor-sharp dialogue is so neatly carved out in the screenplay that you could miss some throwaway lines – of which there are plenty. It may be Morris’ satirical way of saying that America need to focus less on the forest and more on the trees, especially the ones that are rotting inside. Amidst a clutch of good performances all round, Marchant (in his screen debut) is just the right side of kooky and credible. While it’s a slight film at 87 minutes, the backbone is solid enough to power along this explosive satire which consistently hits the funny bone. Welcome back Christopher Morris.