‘What if every conspiratorial suspicion you’ve had about law enforcement and terrorism was true?’ is the question posed, and substantively answered, by Chris Morris’s The Day Shall Come. A farcical look, based on countless real stories, at how the FBI invents and creates its own terror threats out of ineptitude, careerism, and racist spite, it’s eye-opening and funny, but not quite focused or propulsive enough to land with the impact it should. Any film with the brass to come out so explicitly against American policing should be commended, and there’s a lot that makes The Day Shall Come worthwhile, if not on a par with the very best of Morris’s work.
Aiming for a promotion, Miami FBI station chief Andy Mudd (Denis O’Hare) assigns his equally funnily named underling Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) to take local weirdo preacher Moses (Marchant Davis) and turn him into a full-blown terror threat through a series of sting operations. Sooner than you can say ‘obvious and illegal entrapment’, Kendra is offering Moses and his eccentric four-man army cash, AK47s, and even nuclear material. It’s genuinely saddening to see Moses, vulnerable to this scam both through his poverty and variable mental state, go against his better judgement as he reluctantly accepts the escalating offers.
Basing his story off of a series of similar cases with ridiculous leaders – Moses thinks he has weather-altering psychic powers, whilst a similar real life case had its commander planning to flood Chicago with a man-made tidal wave – it’d have been impossible for Morris to not make The Day Shall Come a comedy. The FBI’s plan is so naked in its cruelty and disregard for due process, and executed so incompetently, that laughs are inevitable, especially with Morris and Jesse Armstrong’s comic instincts driving the script. A fantastic new discovery, Marchant Davis makes a very impressive film debut here, comfortably at home in Morris’s darkly funny world.
With all this going for it, it’s a shame that The Day Shall Come has a habit of tripping itself up with some shonky editing. Lots of scenes have great individual moments, but are overall rather baggy, leading to an uncomfortable stop-start routine in both the plot and the character developments. In a film with this much obvious fury, the overly frequent pauses for breath dull its power. For the most part though, the injustice of the story speaks for itself, and the ending is effectively blood-boiling, showing how the US rewards the most flimsy facades of ‘self-defense’ at the expense of real justice.
The Day Shall Come is clearly the work of an impassioned and clever team of people, but with so much material to fit into a narrative, its focus can become cloudy (one wonders if it might in fact have worked better as a documentary). Fans of Morris will find plenty to love here, a flabbergasted call to action featuring some killer gags, but the high-wire, razor-sharp satire of The Day Today, Brass Eye, and Four Lions hasn’t fully survived the trip to America.