REVIEW: Chris Morris is back with scabrous comedy The Day Shall Come

Chris Morris follow up to Four Lions mocks the conventions of the US War on Terror – The Day Shall Come shows just how much we’ve missed him, says Cath Clarke

Where has Chris Morris been in our hour of need? After making his film debut with 2010’s Four Lions about a bunch of crap Sheffield Islamic terrorists, Morris went silent.

As our politics and democracy have been ripped apart by expensively educated donkeys, what happened to the genius satirist behind The Day Today, Brass Eye and Nathan Barley?

He’s been in America, it turns out, fastidiously researching another caustic War on Terror black comedy – “based on a hundred true stories” it says in the opening credits.

You say entrapment. The judge says 19 years, no parole.

It’s been known for years that the FBI’s sticky fingerprints are over virtually all the biggest domestic terror plots in America since 9/11. Typically, it goes down like this: an undercover agent or paid informant pretends to be a terrorist, befriends a target then encourages them to break the law. You say entrapment. The judge says 19 years, no parole.

The Day Shall Come begins with a classic piece of Morris silliness (he co-wrote the script with Jesse Armstrong). An informer has groomed a “terrorist” into detonating a fake bomb in a Miami hotel – all you need to do is dial a number on a mobile phone the informer tells him and boom. But the poor guy has an irrational fear of the number five, so won’t press the button.

It’s ludicrous, but like everything Morris does it has a weird tang of credibility. The failure of the pretend bomb to go off is major screw-up at the FBI where a boss snaps to his underlings: “Bring me the next 9/11”. But it takes a whole lot of work and time to uncover a real terrorism plot, so why not fabricate one?

Enter Anna Kendrick as Kendra Glack, an ambitious rookie agent who spots a wacko preacher Moses (newcomer Marchánt Davis, above) on Facebook Live posting African-American jihadi videos. Moses is no one’s idea of a serious terrorism suspect. Off his meds, he heard the voice of God in a duck telling him to open a community farm.

Dressed in a kingly cape made out of a shower curtain, he has persuaded a couple of ex-drug dealers to grow kale while a couple of chickens scratch about. As one FBI agent puts it, he has the threat level of a hot dog.

There’s echoes of The Thick of It and Veep (Morris has directed episodes of the latter) in the brutal put-downs and banter in the corridors of the FBI as agents try to assert their position in the pecking order.

Glack uses an undercover informer to set Moses up as a terrorist, promising him $50,000 and a bunch of guns. The trouble is Moses is a bit queasy around weapons, so plans to paint the guns white and use them as fence posts.

This is a story of injustice plain and simple

At the FBI no one cares that he is not a credible threat – they’ve got targets to meet. What about letting him go, asks one agent? No way, says the boss: “The next thing you know the Statue of Liberty is in a burqa and they’ve beheaded Bruce Springsteen.”

The cruelty and cynicism is funny until it has consequences. And no mistake, this is a story of injustice plain and simple.

The Day Shall Come is an angry film, with a fierceness I don’t think we’ve seen before in a Morris piece. My only minor quibble with it is that while he’s been working in the US, we’ve gone without him here. Now, would somebody ask Baroness Hale to compel him back on the telly, nightly. Morris, your country needs you.

The Day Shall Come is in cinemas from October 11

This article was originally published in The Big Issue magazine. Get your copy now from your local vendor or Big Issue Shop.