“The Day Shall Come” is Chris Morris’ Return to Ruthless Satire [Review]

Chris Morris, the Stanley Kubrick of Ruthless Satire, is back with a new movie. Hurrah! The Day Shall Come is another bitter satire about the hypocrisy of law enforcement agencies and the War on Terror.

 

Moses Al Shabbaz (Marchánt Davis) is an impoverished preacher of a small Hebrew Israelite commune in Miami who doesn’t realise he’s been targeted by the FBI. Agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) wants to funnel money and weapons to Moses and set him up as a terrorist so they can arrest them and show the system works. Trouble is, Moses is a harmless crank at best, slightly mentally-unstable at worst. That means Glack has to work extra hard to push Moses and his congregation of four hapless dudes into looking like the dangerous wannabe jihadis she can arrest. And Moses isn’t even Muslim!

Morris’ satire is to push the absurdity of his characters’ beliefs and actions so far that the story can only be seen as farce. Moses’ revolutionary ideas are so outlandish there’s no way he could ever pull them off. The script saves its ire for the self-serving hypocrisy of the law enforcement agencies. In Chris Morris’ universe, cops, spies and feds are not the earnest, hard-working heroes from CBS TV shows. They’re frequently self-serving, incompetent and out for themselves. Morris researched real-life scenarios like the one in the movie. He shot it in secret in the Dominican Republic so no one would know about it.

The Ruthless Comedy Universe of Chris Morris

 

In Four Lions, Morris set out to create a counter-narrative. He portrayed would-be terrorists as bumbling idiots instead of the swarthy, sinister Others depicted in American shows like 24 and Homeland. Morris researched actual bombers and found many of them barely competent – they often blew themselves up before even reaching their targets. Four Lions doesn’t claim these guys are any less dangerous or terrible, but humanizes them as people rather than racist stereotypes.

The Day Shall Come is a companion movie to Four Lions where it looks at the other side of the War on Terror. Morris’ brand of satire is ruthless and clinical. He brings an anthropological approach to the way he observes his characters all their tragic farce. The Britishness of his approach means he does not have any warm, fuzzy bits to reassure the audience the way many American comedies do. He isn’t interested in being likable. He wants you to see how messed up the world is and not shrug it off. Co-writer Jesse Armstrong sprinkles the script with darkly comic dialogue you’ll recognise from his HBO show Succession.

Chris Morris doesn’t want you to feel good. He wants you to laugh and come out with your eyes open.

The Day Shall Come is now playing in select theatres and on VOD in the US. It will open theatrically in the UK on October 11th.