Promising to be "a comedy based on a hundred true stories", the day came for Marc Nash to watch The Day Shall Come...
Chris Morris is a comedy and satire genius. Everything he has come up with, from The Day Today (unleashing the character of Alan Partridge on us), through the fake news pranks on celebrities in the likes of Brass Eye, all the way up to the inestimable film Four Lions about homegrown terrorists, has hit home and given us lots of laughs along the way. That is until now and his follow up movie The Day Shall Come, a film which manages to miss every single one of its targets and, a first for Morris, lacks for a single laugh out loud moment.
Part of the reason is that the film occupies similar ground to Four Lions, the battle against terrorism. Where Four Lions focused solely on the journeys of the wannabe terrorists, here the focus is more on the authorities’ attempts to counter terrorism. The ineptitude of the would-be terrorists was funny in Four Lions; the ineptitude of the FBI and other competing security forces here, while highly credible (as befits being heavily researched), just isn’t funny. Comedy relies on the unexpected and the ridiculous turns of logic taken by the FBI agents managed to be both off the scale and yet the motivation behind them just didn’t seem all that far fetched at all. Hence, no laughs.
The plot focuses on a gaggle of Americans of Haitian extraction who have formed a church, started up an urban farm and wear clothes that George Clinton wouldn’t necessarily have turned his nose up at. Financially they are struggling, the landlord is applying the pressure for back rent to be paid. Desperate needs make for desperate measures, but the group who want to bring down the racist US state refuse to take up arms. Rather their leader Moses Al-Shabaz (played by Marchant Davis) is trying to hone his psychic weaponry to bring down the cranes that are remodeling the Miami cityscape around his urban farm. Which is why he won’t take his anti-psychotic medication because it interferes with his powers.
With his fire and brimstone sermons on YouTube, the FBI have him in their sights and set him up in a sting operation, somehow eliding his Afrocentric agenda with Al Qaeda terrorism. They engineer a deal for automatic weapons, fifty Kalashnikovs to equip his 5 strong army, four strong when his wife gets wind of it and leaves with the kids. Moses’ justification is that he will just sell the weapons on rather than use them, since he is only interested in cash to pay the rent. When the time comes, he plumps for turning in the arms dealer to the FBI, who is of course one of their paid informers. What a hoot, the FBI called in to arrest one of their own… Yeah it wasn’t funny the first time as a plot twist, let alone the second or third time it cropped up.
And from here in on, a fixated FBI up the stakes on Moses to catch him the act, with ludicrous twists of logic stretching credulity for the viewer sat there in a cinema watching this nonsense. Yeah, we get the point that the FBI are desperate for results, for criminal prosecutions, to secure their funding in the face of competition from police, Homeland Security and other agencies. We also get the point that within the FBI’s open plan offices, there is just as intense a rivalry between agents to foil the next big plot; but instead of keeping score on a corkboard, they shoot nerf guns at one another, pull faces behind the boss and indulge in some catty banter which barely raised a smirk on this viewer’s face. There is a point to all this, the framing and entrapment of innocent citizens in these armed plots has gone on, with people ending up in jail. Also that there are plenty of disaffected citizens in the US who espouse anti-American and anti-state rhetoric, who can be played on to keep the statistics and budgets up. But the plot’s version of this is so heavy-handed as to undermine the satire. Agent Kendra Glack whose pet project Moses was, realises very quickly that the case is a bust, but she is constantly persuaded to stick at it and upping those stakes, however Anna Kendrick’s facial expression range is just not up to the impossible task of holding the two feelings at once, and such is the breadth of cognitive dissonance demanded, that not even Meryl Streep or Jennifer Lawrence could pull it off either.
Though the film does give equal time to the authorities and to the disaffected citizenry in the form of Moses, both are treated with sledgehammer over-the-topness of a by the plot, so it’s impossible to feel sympathy for anybody and you come out thinking a plague on both their houses, they deserve one another. And I am certain that was never Morris’ intention. I will say one thing for this film it didn’t feel as long as the 90 minutes of its running length, which is probably a good thing as you’re released more quickly from this cinematic farrago. That beloved comedy film move, of putting up photos of the characters and relating to us what became of them after the film did all the work required for the entire previous 90 minutes; four white FBI faces going on to various promotions within the establishment; Moses’ troop, all black faces, with various lengths of prison sentence displayed under their mugshots. Didn’t really need anything else.
His books are available from Amazon here.
Images - IMDb