The Day Shall Come is cut from the same cloth at writer-director Chris Morris’ film debut, Four Lions. The major difference is that now the setting has switched to the United States, and the focus has shifted to the FBI. Or partially shifted, anyway, because the movie’s strength lies in its compassionate portrayal of the not-quite terrorists.
It’s a scathing satire, somewhat in the vein of the upcoming Jojo Rabbit, only it’s from a time in much more recent memory. And while it has a lot to say about fake news and the way the American government creates its own enemies, it doesn’t map one-to-one with the current landscape. Instead The Day Shall Come is based on what Morris calls “a hundred true stories” of false accusations and unjust imprisonments.
The Day Shall Come: Cautionary Tale
The so-called criminal at the heart of the story is Moses (Marchánt Davis), the charismatic leader of a tiny religious cult that combines every Western religion available with radical beliefs of Black power. Perhaps he and his crew could prove a real threat if they actually A) had more than 5 members including Moses’ wife Venus (Danielle Brooks) and their daughter, or B) believed in the use of guns.
Clearly, the group of farmers with big dreams would have no detrimental effect on society if left to their own devices. And while The Day Shall Come doesn’t pull its punches when mocking the dumb choices of these characters, it does imbue them with humanity and dignity. This is most especially clear in the performances, with Davis and Brooks being the standouts of the whole movie. It’s hard not too root for Moses and his family, especially when Morris makes it so clear how unfairly the cards are stacked against them.
As luck would have it, Agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) catches Moses’ Facebook stream and immediately flags him as a potential terrorist. While her intentions are genuine at first, it quickly spirals out of control with the added involvement of her boss Andy Mudd (Denis O’Hare) and nasty coworker Josh (Miles Robbins). Before anyone knows it, the incompetent FBI team have created their own imaginary terrorist group rather than catching any actual one.
Both Sides Are Not Equal
While The Day Shall Come spends roughly the same amount of screen time on Glack’s crew as on Moses’, the quality of that time is very different. Kendrick and O’Hare do an admirable job of keeping their characters likeable in the midst of despicable situations, but the rest of the FBI feel like a mass of nameless buffoons.
That is most likely on purpose, since the point is to show how insane the “War On” anything really is, but it doesn’t make their scenes any more fun to watch. The Day Shall Come comes to life when it follows Moses unwittingly following the path to his inevitable doom, or even in the moments when he and Kendra cross paths at cross purposes. Her dual desires to both help him and hunt him as a trophy for her job security are also fascinating, but aren’t given as much room to breathe.
The relatively short runtime flies by, and the tone shifts dramatically from comedy to tragedy in a way that’s both intentional and brilliant. And yet, the lack of attention to detail on the FBI side of things prevents The Day Shall Come from being truly great. Which is ironic, given that they’re their own worst enemy onscreen as well.
Nevertheless, one can easily extrapolate the terrorism ‘threat’ in the film to any other crowd-driven (or government-driven) scare. Whether it’s vaccinations or drugs, we live in a society that fears what it doesn’t know and turns it into a bogeyman without correcting the underlying problem. Perhaps laughing at ourselves a little more will help us wake up and make a change.
The Day Shall Come premieres in American theaters on September 27th, with a runtime of 88 minutes. It is not rated, but it contains mature themes, violence and strong language.