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Home > The Shift (2023): A Review

The Shift (2023): A Review

The Shift (2023): A Review

A Retelling of a Timeless Story

Angel Studios first came onto audiences’ radars with the release of The Chosen, a multi-season series that details the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Their name has become more recognizable with the release of arguably the year’s biggest box office surprise, Sound of Freedom. Now, the dubbed “mini-major independent” film studio has released an interesting new twist on the faith-based film, The Shift.

Synopsis

The Shift retells the Bible’s Book of Job, wrapping it in science-fiction skin. The story follows Kevin Garner (Kristoffer Polaha), the Job-like figure in the story, after a car accident that leaves him meeting a man known as The Benefactor, the stand-in for the Devil. When this mysterious man offers Kevin all the wealth and power he could ever desire, to which Kevin denies it all, The Benefactor takes him out of his world into a totalitarian reality. With everything being taken away from him, including his wife, Kevin goes through a process known as “shifting,” an endeavor that leads him through the multiverse to witness various versions of himself, all to be reunited with his wife. 

Diverging from the Hollywood System

This weekend, two low-budget but successful films were released, proving that enormous budgets are not required for effects-heavy films. The Japanese film Godzilla Minus One had a reported budget of $15 million, while The Shift is reported to have had a $6.4 million budget. With films such as Killers of the Flower Moon costing studios $200 million, films like The Shift call into question the need for excessive budgets. Being a film centered around jumping across the multiverse, the effects of the film come off as believable and seamless. While not including tones of special effect shots, the few that are utilized appear to match the caliber of most Hollywood blockbusters today. 

Similar to 2017’s Upgrade, The Shift was able to draw viewers into the setting of the world without breaking the bank. For example, the totalitarian universe that Kevin is shifted to has a futuristic appearance. From the clothing of the police-type force that enforces the laws to the technology that is used by the characters, the film pulls off these elements without looking cheap or cheesy. If the film wasn’t able to look as good as it did, it easily could have collapsed the whole project by coming off as absurd. However, the quality of the look and set design helped elevate the film by distracting from some of the weaker elements.

A Mixture of Acting

Overall, the main cast of actors worked within the context of their characters. Kristoffer Polaha as the main protagonist, Kevin, does a fine job at making the character likable but doesn’t necessarily pop across the screen. The character isn’t written in a way that makes audiences want to gravitate toward him but rather serves as a tool to further the messaging. It works well enough to carry the film but doesn’t necessarily stick with you when leaving the theater. The same goes for Sean Astin’s character, Gabriel, and Elizabeth Tabish as Molly, Kevin’s wife. Both actors do fine jobs at carrying their generically-written characters but are not distracting. 

The highlight of the film comes from Neal McDonough’s character of The Benefactor. While the character lacks any depth or weight that would make him a well-rounded villain, The Benefactor serves as a great representation of the Devil. McDonough brings a charismatic charm to the character while still being cruel and ruthless. He’s a magnet whenever he’s on screen, stealing every second of his scenes. There are large chunks of the film where the character is absent, and his absence is missed, but his limited screen time is very worthwhile.

The Shift (2023): A Review

Absorbing the Messaging

The biggest criticism faith-based films receive is being too heavy-handed with the messaging. Rather than leaving the message of the film out, the story can naturally make the Christian elements of the film work and not feel as cringy moments of preachiness. Being an adaptation of the Book of Job, the film finds natural ways to insert dialogue that pushes the themes of faith, kindness, and philosophical questioning around God without taking away from the science-fiction storytelling. 

Similar to how this year’s Nefarious was able to break the model of Christian filmmaking by telling a better and broader story, The Shift follows in its footsteps with its theme. Like the horror elements in Nefarious, the inclusion of the science fiction qualities works as an added spice in the mix to make the film more interesting, breaking away from the mopey dramas about small-town people achieving big goals. 

The Holdbacks

While overall it is a great experience, the film does suffer from a rough start. The first act feels as if the filmmakers were trying to rush through the set-up to get to the heart of the story. During the second act, the film picks up immensely and improves in its storytelling. However, at times the world-building can be confusing, as some of the workings of the multiverse traveling do not make sense. It’s most likely a fault in the multiverse concept, something that plagued Marvel and DC films when they started introducing the multiverse into their storylines. However, in The Shift, it comes off as more of a problem from a rushed set-up in order to get to the Job portion of the story. 

Despite not being a perfect film, The Shift achieves success as a creative retelling of a popular book of the Bible. It translates the timeless themes, messaging, and story into a new age while adding modern storytelling elements to spice it up. With a lack of set-up and weakly-written characters, the film makes up for it with a visually appealing and powerfully written story that will hopefully inspire other Christian filmmakers to follow in their creative footsteps. 

The Shift is currently playing in theaters.

The Shift (2023): A Review

The Shift (2023) Official Angel Studios Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Author

Mason Kupiainen is a recent Butler University graduate with a degree in Creative Media and Entertainment. His work has been published in Butler Collegiate, The Mall, and Byte BSU. Along with written work, he has a videography portfolio with Indy Blue Video, Byte BSU, and Ball Bearings.

Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.