Review: ‘The Day Shall Come’ exposes joke of “war on terror”
Marchánt Davis and Danielle Brooks in The Day Shall Come

The term Theatre of the Absurd deals with what happens when human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. The new film The Day Shall Come explores this idea in relation to our current political terrain. It’s a movie that uses comedy to address the very real chaos, corruption, and absurdity when it comes to politics in the United States, specifically in relation to the so-called “war on terror.” The jokes land well, while simultaneously showcasing that corruption of the government, and of those in power, is no laughing matter.

Written by Chris Morris (Four Lions) and Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show) the dark comedy thriller is set to be distributed by IFC films in the United States and Entertainment One in the United Kingdom. It stars Marchánt Davis (Tuscaloosa), Anna Kendrick (A Simple Favor), Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black), Andrel McPherson (The Divorce Party), Curtiss Cook Jr. (Gook), Malcolm Mays (Life of a King), Denis O’Hare (Late Night), Adam David Thompson (Godless), Michael Braun (Succession), and Kayvan Novak (Four Lions).

The film focuses on Moses Al Shabaz (Davis), who is a Miami street preacher who has far-fetched revolutionary ideas but a small following. He believes he is organizing the Black community for the overthrow of the “accidental dominance” of the white race. He, his wife (played by Brooks), his young daughter, and three militant followers live on a communal urban farm. Moses has a lot of ideas but little money for the revolution, so he receives help from a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. The problem? His backer is actually the U.S. government, which is operating an elaborate scheme to entrap Moses and make his arrest the latest national security “win.” Things don’t go as planned when Moses doesn’t take the bait, resulting in FBI agent Kendra Glack (Kendrick) and her team resorting to increasingly outlandish lengths to snare Moses.

Dennis O’Hare, Anna Kendrick, and Adam David Thomas in The Day Shall Come

The plotline may sound outlandish, but just as the film opens up with declaring that it is based on “a hundred true stories,” The Day Shall Come isn’t as far-fetched as one might think. What is alluded to often in the movie is the “war on terror,” also known as the Global War on Terrorism. It is an international military campaign led by the United States government after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The campaign was described as targeting known terrorist organizations, primarily Sunni Islamist fundamentalist armed groups. The issues and criticisms with the so-called “war on terror” campaign are plenty, which the film dives into with sharp wit.

The two strongest points of the film are the cast and the social commentary. Davis shines as the good-natured revolutionary. He brings a subtle charm and innocence to his portrayal of a man who wants to eventually overthrow the government simply because he recognizes the injustices against his community. Yes, his character is slightly unstable, and naive at times, but that makes you root for him all the more against a political machine that wants to use him, and others similar to him, as a pawn. Davis could have played Moses as a misguided caricature of the stereotype of a Black militant, but his portrayal has heart and genuineness that makes you hope his plight doesn’t end in tragedy. Brooks plays the dutiful wife and the symbolic figure of the Black woman that is often the moral compass and voice of reason in social movements. The chemistry Davis and Brooks share on screen is endearing.

The entire cast comes together to create characters that fit well in the comedic moments but show hints of more nuanced layers. The actors portraying the FBI agents do their parts akin to an office comedy, and you may even be drawn in to like them– until you realize their work is to set up and entrap citizens they deem “threats” to their idea of democracy.

What helps in creating this emotional conflict of interest is the often subtle, and occasionally not so subtle, commentary Morris interweaves throughout the script. The film does an amazing job of getting you comfortable with the cast of characters as though it’s a fun situational comedy with a serious backdrop all the way until the mental rug is pulled from underneath you when the serious stakes of the situation become prevalent towards the end.

Who are the heroes in a situation such as this? Who are the real victims? Whose side should you truly be on? Who gets to decide what democracy looks like and who is a threat to it? The movie pushes the buttons on questions such as these connecting to an ongoing political debate surrounding the involvement of the United States in matters both domestically and internationally.

Movie poster

Just as some characters in the film lose their rights so too has the non-fictional “war on terror” come under fire for the infringement on the civil liberties of individuals. The human rights violations conducted by the United States Army and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) at Abu Ghraib still stands as an infamous example of what has been done in the so-called name of justice. Morris isn’t a stranger to exploring these themes, as his previous film, the slapstick comedy Four Lions centering on Jihadi suicide bombers, illuminates the contradictory workings of this serious topic.

And things do get serious in The Day Shall Come, primarily towards the end. The fate of the main characters may not come as a surprise for those familiar with how our political theatre can often award medals of honor and power to those reeking of hypocrisy, while real victims continue to suffer. It’s a realistic ending, not necessarily a happy one, and that is a testament to Morris staying true to the inspired-by truth plot he laid out here.

The film doesn’t overstay its welcome at just one hour and thirty minutes long but makes a lasting impact. The Day Shall Come applies the Theatre of the Absurd not to humanity necessarily, but to a government and ruling class whose purpose is meaningless outside of greed and profit, therefore leading to chaos. It’s a farce. It’s a circus. It seems too ridiculous to be true, but given recent political revelations the movie could be said to stand as a mirror to our own reality. It’s pretty hilarious until you realize we may be living within the joke.

The Day Shall Come is now available on VOD


Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.