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Uneven “The Shift” Is Still Powerful

Written by: Adam Vaughn | March 27th, 2024

The Shift (Brock Heasley, 2024) 3 out of 5 stars 

The Shift tells the story of Kevin Garner (Kristoffer Polaha, Jurassic World: Dominion), a man who has lived a happy, blessed life overall, in love with his beautiful wife Molly (Elizabeth Tabish, Honor Among Thieves). But when Kevin and Molly lose their first-born son, things start to unravel. It is at this moment that Kevin is visited by a mysterious man called The Benefactor (Neal McDonough, Red Stone), who promises to turn Kevin’s life around if he submits and becomes one of his “shifters.” When Kevin refuses, he is transported to a bleak, dystopian world in which neither his wife nor child ever existed.

Thus begins a narrative that sets out to echo the Book of Job in the Old Testament, the story of a man who is tested by Satan: will his faith in God hold strong or falter from temptation or suffering. The Shift certainly depicts an interesting, sci-fi twist on the biblical story by making “The Benefactor” a superpowered suit-and-tie version of the Devil, with the power to send Kevin through various multiverses. Director Brock Heasley’s strongest element is the use of genre elements to depict this powerful tale of tested faith. While the production value here never matches a big Hollywood budget—such as that of a Hunger Games film—the movie’s story shields it from some of the effects of that flaw.

l-r: Elizabeth Tabish and Kristoffer Polaha in THE SHIFT ©Angel Studios

Sadly, where The Shift falls truly short is in its inability to deviate from an on-the-nose tone and speak objectively about the story presented. There are many strongly opinionated sequences that have a specific social commentary, much of which is overemphasized and distracts from the fantastic concept of Kevin being thrown into a multiversal madness. While, as a Christian, I fully embrace a narrative with Christian undertones, I wonder if Heasley (making his feature debut) and the writing team really needed to layer so many additional Christian themes on top of a narrative already based on a biblical parable.

Overall, while I enjoyed the fantastic setting and was moved by Kevin’s heartfelt journey,  I take points off from The Shift for being unable to forgo its forced social commentary rather than fully exploring the already inspiring tale of Job. Heasley and Angel Studios are quite ingenious for taking a science-fiction route for such an adaptation, but poor writing and weak thematic suggestion weigh the film down. For people with specific ideological views, this may well be a highly relatable film, but the average moviegoer may feel overwhelmed by its approach.

Neal McDonough in THE SHIFT ©Angel Studios

Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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