A few weeks ago, when asked about why he had shifted his career from comedy to drama, director Todd Philips blamed the rise of “woke” culture for killing the genre in cinema. Patently, in this instance, he is a dumbass.
And you need to look no further than Chris Morris’ latest, The Day Shall Come, to see just upon what level he and people who agree with him are acting out some primo dumbassery. For anyone acquainted with Morris and his back catalogue, he’s been plagued with controversy, especially when it comes to his cinematic output: Jihadi comedy Four Lions was basically the hot topic in British cinema when it came out at the start of the decade, and his most recent release, The Day Shall Come, is as acerbic, uncompromising, and wildly entertaining as his debut.
The Day follows the story of Moses (Marchant Davis), an embattled and cash-strapped leader to a small religious organisation in Miami, who becomes targeted by the FBI as they attempt to turn him into a legitimate terrorist threat in order to pat themselves on the back about taking out another danger to America.
Laugh-a-minute is an understatement; a cast studded through with gems and led by a warm, likeable, slightly hopeless Davis brings out the sublime wit of the pinpoint-accurate dialogue, roving between high-level political satire and slapstick comedy in the blink of an eye. The Day Shall Come employs every tool it can to hold down the chaotic, pitch-black story in comedy, but it’s more than just the humour than impresses here.
There’s a gorgeous sense of escalation to this story; as the complex, ridiculous, uncomfortably believable story (the film announces itself as “Based on one hundred true stories” before the opening credits) hurtles towards its maddening climax, writers Morris and Jesse Armstrong have somehow made every step on this journey utterly logical in the context of the two groups we’re following – Moses’ group, and the FBI task force (starring Anna Kendrick and Denis O’Hare in the new screwball comedy duo that I’m obsessed with) working on his case.
Like I wrote on the Death of Stalin, The Day Shall Come is a serious comedy; the kind that uses killer gags to unravel this exceptionally bleak and dense story. Reading this in a ten-thousand word expose is far less appealing than having Morris and Armstrong dance us through this maddening, masterful farce of terrorism, the FBI, and the criminals they invent. I couldn’t help but think of Todd Philips’ comments as this movie tossed out dead kid jokes, nuclear crisis gags, and violent terrorism jabs for it’s lean ninety-minute runtime, and still managed to fit an appropriately woke climax in at the end there – if woke culture has ruined comedy, Chris Morris hasn’t gotten the memo yet.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via NME)