Chris Morris / 2019 / UK / 98 mins
Coming nine years after his scathing take-down of the media’s portrayal of domestic terrorists, The Day Shall Come feels like a cousin from out of town bearing only a passing resemblance to its sure-footed antecedent. It is also too similar in content to Four Lions, re-examining much of the surreal and absurd elements of the war on terror without saying anything all that striking or new.
With a promising start, we are introduced to Moses (played by newcomer Marchant Davis), who convincingly conveys the righteousness and confusion of some members of the Black Nationalists Louis Theroux met in one his weird weekends. Nominally a black farmer off his meds living with his small family and assorted disciples/helpers, his bizarre social media posts are noticed by the feds, who need a new and preferably easy target.
Anna Kendrick plays Kendra Glack, who, after having met Moses, decides that the intervention is not in the interests of national security and then attempts to prevent the process escalating, courtesy of internal politics and target-based law enforcement, as well as downright stupidity and bureaucratic incompetence.
In the intervening nine years Chris Morris has done little (except some episodes of Veep) which seemed to have served as primer for working in the studio system. The inclusion of Jesse Armstrong, Tony Roche and Sean Gray as script writers furthers this impression, as their contributions smack of rejected Veep banter and ideas, encompassing their twin specialisms of childish banter and petty competitiveness in the name of patriotism and freedom.
Anna Kendrick and Adam David Thompson could actually be substituted for Anna Chlumsky and Timothy Simons (stars of Veep), along with whole swathes of bitchy dialogue, and the entire enterprise would remain unchanged. Opportunities for hilarity are squandered on weak dialogue and there’s a sense that Morris is out of his element but unwilling or unable to correct the situation.
This is a shame, because his sense of the absurd remains strong and his eye for outrage is as keen as ever, drawing on the Liberty City Seven as inspiration for his fictional tale. The obligatory ‘Based on a true story’ is jettisoned in favour of ‘Based on hundreds of true stories’, wherein state actors identify likely candidates for radicalisation, then supply the incentive and the means to potentially commit acts of terror.
Kayvan Novak pops up as a poorly rendered Muslim plant rendered malleable due to his predilection for underage girls. As a high point of the previous film, he is reduced to mugging and clowning here, further ensuring the wait for Morris’ third feature will be a long one.
These stories need more exposure and until the release The Day Shall Come, it would be reasonable to expect that Morris was the perfect conduit to bring them to a wider audience – but on this evidence, his time has come.
In cinemas from 11th October 2019