Review: ‘The Shift’

Sean Astin And Neal McDonough Star In A Multiverse Movie For The Faith-Based Crowd

It seems nowadays pretty much every movie has to do with the multiverse in some form. It’s kind of no surprise given that last year’s Best Picture winner was Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. DC’s tackled the multiverse on both the big and small screen, and Marvel’s pretty much going to tackle the multiverse for the next few years. With the multiverse becoming its own cinematic genre, it’s no surprise, yet kind of surprising that we are now delving into “faith-based” multiversal movies with Angel Studios (fresh off this year’s massive hit Sound of Freedom) latest film The Shift.

Church-going Wall Street finance guy (already an oxymoron) Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha) goes to a bar to drown his sorrows after losing his job, but instead meets the girl of his dreams Molly (Elizabeth Tabish) one fateful. The two hit it off and within the first ten minutes of The Shift, he’s in happy wedded bliss. Fast forward a few years and their marriage has become troubled in the aftermath of the death of their child. While driving home after work, Kevin and Molly are in an argument over household bills when Kevin gets into a car accident and then Everything changes for him though when he meets “The Benefactor” (Neal McDonough) in the aftermath.

The Benefactor is already talking to Kevin like he knows everything about him and invites Kevin to a nearby diner to give him an offer he can’t refuse. The Benefactor wants to recruit Kevin to become one of his “shifters,” multiversal agents who do The Benefactor’s bidding. In exchange for working for this mysterious man/devil, Kevin is promised rewards and riches beyond his imagination. Of course, Kevin laughs off this assumedly crazy person, but when The Benefactor uses his “deviator” (basically a smartwatch that can send people throughout the multiverse), Kevin is taken aback of course. The Benefactor offers Kevin the one thing he can’t do without: Molly. While Molly is his estranged wife in this reality, The Benefactor promises him a new and different Molly if he becomes one of his shifters.

Unlike all other versions of Kevin within the multiverse in The Shift, our Kevin is deeply religious and starts praying, which angers The Benefactor. By the way, The Shift is not hiding that The Benefactor is some version of Lucifer, because he DETESTS prayer, so much that he sends Kevin to a reality of his own making where prayer is outlawed, and everyone’s an atheist living under The Benefactor’s dystopian rule.

For the next five years, Kevin is living in this hellscape with the other people under The Benefactor’s rule enforced by his masked goons. During all this time, Kevin has never lost his faith. The Shift pretty much follows the story of the Book of Job as Kevin is the analog of Job where everything’s been taken from him (his riches, his humanity, his wife), but he still maintains his faith in God. Through those years, Kevin has become somewhat of a folk hero, helping people in what’s basically an atheist reality learn about the word of God. All at the same time, The Benefactor has a keen interest in Kevin and trying to break him from his belief in God. Through that time, he meets “underground” religious people including his closest friend Gabriel (Sean Astin) who are nervous about his continued faith, but also are interested in it as well.

The Shift tries its best to give us the rules of their multiverse, which adopts the multiverse rules from the TV show Fringe that for every choice we make, it creates another reality, which can be infinite. While this may seem like free will doesn’t exist, it’s actually how most multiverse concepts come from that makes the most sense. However at least in The Shift’s dystopian reality we spend most of our time in, the people there know that there is a multiverse, they even have illegal “viewing experiences” where people can pay to look at their doppelganger’s lives in other realities on a big screen, and that’s where Kevin sees “his” Molly from another reality and goes on a mission to try and find her and make things right with her, and The Benefactor isn’t too pleased with that.

Now making a faith-based movie surrounding such a scientific concept seems like it wouldn’t work, and truth be told, it mostly doesn’t work in The Shift. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Writer/director Brock Heasley took a big swing in his attempt at making a coherent story. However, this film is made for a certain built-in audience, mainly evangelical Christians who will go in droves to see The Shift. In addition, there is ABSOLUTELY NO SUBTLETY at all. The Christian themes might as well have a giant bullhorn preaching about the Book of Job while a hammer is beating you over the head about all the Christian themes. For goodness’ sake, there are cutaways just to give bible verses from the Book of Job throughout the film! If you aren’t already a part of the target audience, this overt preaching will probably be a turn-off.

There are also some great performances in The Shift. Neal McDonough continues to be his Damien Darhk character from Arrow in almost everything he does and is manacing as The Benefactor. The same goes for Sean Austin as he reminds you that he’s owed an Oscar for Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and an Emmy for Stranger Things. These two seem to be acting in a completely different movie compared to the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, Kristoffer Polaha as Kevin (who you may know from like 900 Hallmark movies) performance isn’t as strong as his supporting cast, which is tough because The Shift would be infinitely more believable if he gave a great performance, which unfortunately falls flat.

That said, The Shift had some promise. It valiantly tried to modernize the story of Job in an interesting and current way. Unfortunately, it needed to temper just a little bit from its overt Christian themes. That doesn’t mean it didn’t need to have any Christian elements in the movie, it could have gone The Book of Eli route and balanced out the Christian and modern story elements and made the film more enjoyable. But it’s almost certain that the film’s core audience will go in droves to see the film, especially after church service, so this movie will be another hit for Angel Studios.

The Shift is currently available in theaters.