SXSW Film Review: The Day Shall Come

British satirist Chris Morris takes aim at security theater

In his groundbreaking and brilliantly confrontational news spoof Brass Eye, British satirist Chris Morris would in each episode take(down) a hot button topic, reflected in the title: “Sex”; “Drugs”; “Crime”; etc. If his new tragicomedy followed that model, it would be called “Security Theater.”

Like his feature directorial debut (the acerbic Four Lions), The Day Shall Come finds itself narratively at the confluence of idiocy and fear. However, rather than the wannabe Jihadis of his first film, now Morris tracks a more affable cadre of bumblers: the street preacher/urban farmer Moses (Marchánt Davis) and his Star of Six church. That’s where he preaches a mix of nonviolent black liberation, mysticism, and 1970s psycho-babble – to a congregation made up of his wife Venus (Danielle Brooks) and a handful of friends – all based on God talking to him through a duck (Moses’ delusional mental health issues are dealt with, as is Morris’ way, with both humor and compassion).

Morris’ core thesis has always been that everyone is an idiot, and that it’s the idiots with power that are totally dangerous. Enter the South Beach FBI, who have become caught in an endless, ridiculous string of sting operations that catch nobodies who can be flipped to take part in the next sting operation to catch nobodies. Agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick, perfect for delivering Morris’ scathing script as the only marginally self-aware character) thinks Moses could be the case that finally delivers. On what, she’s not sure, but with a few nudges and the right kind of entrapment, who knows?

Morris has always hidden his political insight under sometimes broad and always brilliant comedy (and for anyone running to make Veep or The Thick of It comparisons, Morris is Armando Iannucci’s peer, not his follower). His genius is in demystifying terrible politics by stripping them down to their basic drivers: greed, weakness, stupidity, ego, delusion. Inspired by real-life cases of law enforcement seemingly radicalizing young men (always of color) just to have a radical to arrest, The Day Shall Come is a bold, compassionate addition to his work. It’s one that makes the audience root for Moses – a literal “holy fool” – but never lets them forget that he’s up against the great machines of governance. It’s not if it goes wrong for him, but when, and how badly.

The Day Shall Come

Narrative Feature Spotlight, World Premiere

Friday, March 15, 5:15pm, Alamo Ritz

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