Anna Kendrick as a plotting FBI agenttwitter/imbibecinema

Chris Morris’ work has always been slightly unhinged. From surreal radio skits about ‘terrestrial dolphins’ and tortoises without their shells, to the offbeat, spacey world of Jam, to the ridiculous bogus celebrity interviews of Brass Eye, his own comedic niche has consistently straddled farce and anarchy to shine an incisive light on his target. This time, Morris’ topic is justice in America.

Our protagonist, Moses, is the head of a religious commune with revolutionary ambitions, the Star of Six. Crucially, their uprising will occur without the use of ‘the gun weapon’. This army’s weapons? A ray gun (a broken gun ‘without the ray’), Moses’ ability to bring down cranes with his mind, and an air horn that will summon a secret army of dinosaurs.

And how does Moses gain these mysterious powers? God spoke to him – through a duck.

As the film progresses, the audience begins to see how the FBI is attempting to convert our essentially-harmless preacher into a full-blown terrorist ‘threat’: paying undercover assets to offer Moses money, guns, and – eventually – (fake) nukes. It gets stranger: these fake nukes will be sold to fake Nazis. It’s a crazy plot, all scripted by the FBI.

Although this sounds like textbook overblown Morris, it’s a much closer imitation of reality than one might expect. This story really is based on a real-life FBI case from 2006 in which seven construction workers collected a combined 44 years in jail for what was apparently ‘the biggest terrorist threat since 9/11’. Their master plan? To ride into Chicago on horseback and summon a tidal wave.

‘I think all comedy should have a point,’ Morris has said in a recent Channel 4 interview. The Day Shall Come is a comedy with a particularly acute one. There have been, staggeringly, over 300 cases since 2001 in which the FBI has artificially engineered a terror plot and locked away the ‘perpetrators’. The film’s message is relevant and damning.

It feels rare these days – in this crazy world of ours – to see political satire that is this rigorously incisive; satire that isn’t lazy impersonation, punning, or laboured dead horses dragged out and pummelled till they implode before a rapturous crowd on late-night television. And our best defence against monotonous lackadaisical offerings: a thoroughly-researched and astute piece. The film’s entire script, as with most Morris projects, feels like it has endured the most thorough analytical combing.

As Morris has suggested, satire in our political climate is now far more telling when it focuses not on the excesses of characters or the hubbub of all-too-common extreme events, but rather on the thinking, or system, behind those people and events.

The film’s message is relevant and damning

This film showcases the typical Morris linguistic trickery popularised by On the Hour and The Day Today: recurring vocabulary like ‘the gun weapon’, specific comedic turns of phrase and imagery (one FBI agent tells another, ‘You’ll shit your mind through the floor’). The FBI scenes are strongly reminiscent of hard-nosed politics dramas like The Thick of It (Jesse Eisenberg co-wrote this film) and Veep (in which both writers have been involved).


Mountain View

In conversation with Peter Bradshaw

Admittedly, this isn’t Morris’ funniest work, though one gets the impression that this was a conscious directorial choice: it doesn’t attempt the big set-piece, laugh-out-loud moments that, for example, Four Lions does. It’s full of under-your-breath chortles, though, and it has certainly got funny moments – think of magical horses causing lightning strikes on cranes.

Instead, it’s the most typically filmic piece of Morris’. It’s a gripping story, and it sensitively carries the audience through to the unflinching end. Scenes between Moses, his wife, and young daughter, and the final climactic scene are wonderfully pathetic, meaning that you’ll leave the cinema, above all, thoughtful and contemplative.

Despite its surface craziness, this is a both a film with a piercing gaze, and one with a tender heart.

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