PG-13 | 1h 55m | Science Fiction, Mystery, Thriller | Dec. 1, 2023
In the wake of “Sound of Freedom” and “After Death,” upstart Christian film distributor Angel Studios scores its third straight winner of 2023 with “The Shift,” a modern-day retelling of the Book of Job.
As with the two previous 2023 Angel feature efforts, “The Shift” retains just enough of the tried-and-true Christian filmmaking blueprint to satisfy and placate the genre’s dedicated, long-established, dyed-in-the-wool fan base while embracing and putting the accent on more familiar, mainstream-friendly subgenres, in this case science-fiction, mystery, and thriller.
Meet CuteBased on the opening title visuals, the story starts around 2007 with the global financial collapse. Kevin Garner (Kristoffer Polaha) is a broker with Bear Stearns, is out of work, and soon goes belly up at a New York hotel bar. He is approached by Molly (Elizabeth Tabish), a fearless woman on a girls’ night out who is challenged by her friends to charm Kevin just enough to prod him into asking her out.
This prelude works like a charm, as Molly hypothesizes what will happen during their future courtship, which is played out flash-forward style on the screen. It’s one of the most innovative and compact “meet cute” scenarios in modern-movie history.
Pivoting on a dime, writer-director Brock Heasley, in adapting his own 2017 short film of the same name, takes “The Shift” from breezy rom-com to harrowing thriller with Kevin nearly losing his life during a traumatic traffic accident. Bloodied and disoriented, Kevin comes to with the help of a man identifying himself as “The Benefactor” (Neal McDonough).
With his cropped gray hair, pale complexion, and icy blue eyes, The Benefactor is initially an affable, concerned, backslapping type, whose demeanor quickly shifts from cordial to imposing not long after he and Kevin enter a restaurant where every patron and employee is on edge.
Don’t BlinkMr. Heasley deserves high marks for delivering a streamlined and efficient introduction to the story. If you blink at the wrong time in the first 15 minutes, you’ll likely miss something of extreme importance. Come to think of it, if you do so for the remainder of the narrative, the same thing will happen. This is not a casual watch. If you take a bathroom or concession break at any point, however brief, you’ll be completely lost upon return.
For mystery thriller fans, this is a huge plus, especially when the story is based on something with such a rich yet essentially simple premise.
Universal AppealAt one point, one of the characters explains the basic summary of the Book of Job in 30 seconds or so without mentioning it by name, which only reinforces the source’s power and universal longevity. It was a dicey move on the part of Mr. Heasley, but it works.
Framing an ancient, much revered text within a modern setting might strike some as flip and ill-advised, perhaps even sacrilegious, which is understandable. However, taking a golden lesson and couching it in a manner that can make it more relatable to 21st-century audiences might not be the worst sin if the lesson is ultimately, if not fully, embraced.
If you see the movie, be sure to stick around through the end credits for a video message from Mr. Polaha.