‘The Day Shall Come’ Falls Under the Weight of Its Ambition (FILM REVIEW)

[rating=6.00]

Best known stateside for his work on Veep, director Christopher Morris is no stranger to satirical takes on modern politics. In 2010, he wrote and directed the intriguing, if uneven, film Four Lions, which followed a group of inept terrorists planning an ill-fated attack. That film, though imperfect, had a kind of quippy panache to it that was reflective of his work on the wildly hilarious, Veep, and seemed to cement him as a satirist to watch.

His latest film, unfortunately, doesn’t sit well beside those two efforts. The Day Shall Come finds Morris reunited with co-writer Jesse Armstrong, with whom he worked on Four Lions, as well as Sean Grey and Tony Roche, two writers who helped mold Veep into the comedic powerhouse it was. The talent oozing from the writer’s room here would suggest the potential for greatness in the latest endeavor though it’s a greatness that never quite actualizes into anything meaningful on the screen.

Boy, it almost does though. There are enough nuggets of fantastic ideas laced throughout The Day Shall Come that its potential is apparent even if it never quite gets off the ground. It is, admittedly, a difficult rope to walk. The film follows a group of hapless FBI agents, led by Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) and her director (Dennis O’Hare) as they attempt to catch would-be terrorists. For their part, this involves finding those among us who might be persuaded to commit acts of terror and guiding them with their own crew of informants and undercover agents.

This is, of course, based on actual tactics used by the FBI which have come under some scrutiny in recent years. Is it moral or ethical to convince people to commit a crime and then arrest them for said crime? Are they manipulating the crazy or actually catching would-be terrorists? That’s the question grappled by The Day Shall Come as the FBI attempts to wrangle black separatist Moses Shabazz (Marchant Davis) into a plot of the FBI’s own design.

Moses is the founder of a separatist church that preaches that black people will one day soon rise up and form their own land free from the gentrification and subjugation of America. He does so mostly through his urban farms, through which he attempts to lure kids away from guns and the streets and into a life of godliness. He’s also suffering from severe mental illness, believing that god speaks to him through animals and that he can destroy buildings with the power of his mind.

The fictional case presented here isn’t entirely unlike the factual cases that have unfolded in American courtrooms since 9/11, and Morris does a fine enough job at showcasing the farce for what it is. That said, The Day Shall Come has a hard time balancing its conflicting tones which too often butt into each other preventing either from getting the oxygen they need to truly blossom. The funny is funny and the tragedy is tragic, but both are blunted by the weight of the other and the film suffers greatly for it.

None of this is to say that The Day Shall Come is a particularly bad film. It certainly isn’t that. Kendrick and Davis both do fine jobs carrying the weight of their plots and portraying the ethical quandary of cases like this. On that level, the film works fine. If you walk away conflicted, then good. Cases like this happen all the time in real life and we should all question whether or not we want the government to trick people into committing crimes they otherwise might not have committed.

And yet there’s so much more that could’ve been mined that gets swept aside for a quick liner, none of which are as clever as they want them to be, or a tender moment, none of which are dramatic as they hope they are. This is, unfortunately, a film bogged down by the weight of what it’s trying to accomplish. I couldn’t help but think it might have worked better as an eight-episode limited series, giving it time and space to grow and breathe. As it stands, The Day Shall Come is a great idea that falls squarely into the category of just fine, and that’s a damn shame.

The Day Shall Come is now playing in select theaters and on VOD.

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