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The Shift (Film Review)

3 min read

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is ostensibly a sci-fi retelling of the biblical Book of Job. In the original story, the devil challenges God to a test, believing that Job, God's most ardent servant, would reject him if the Devil were to take away everything he deems precious. God, confident in Job's devotion, allows this to happen.

Kristoffer Polaha stars as Kevin, the Job of The Shift. Kevin is a sleazy salesman who, after meeting the mysterious Molly (Elizabeth Tabish) in a bar, decides to turn to God, get married, and start a family.

For a time, Kevin is happy, at least until he crashes his car and wakes up in a restaurant having dinner with the malevolent force, the Benefactor. The Benefactor informs Kevin that there are infinite realities, which he controls, and in every reality, Kevin is his dark apprentice. Kevin refuses to join him, revealing the true darkness of the Benefactor. However, after praying to God, the Benefactor vanishes, leaving Kevin in a different reality, separated from his wife.

The Shift is a bit of a mash-up between The Matrix and a Hallmark Channel TV movie. The science fiction concept of shifting between realities is novel. The Scooby-Doo-esque gimmick of walking through a door and having it lead somewhere entirely different is deployed to great effect in a scene near the film's end. The “shifting” in question, moving people between realities, is also a clever way of lessening the harshness of the tale of Job. Rather than murdering his whole family, they are “shifted” between realities. The premise laid out by the Benefactor and his legion of “Deviators” is intriguing with a lot of potential, but the religious aspect of the movie blunts this somewhat.

Faith in a film doesn't necessarily discount it form being taken seriously or lessen its impact. You don't have to believe in a deity to understand what it feels like to believe in something. Making faith a core tenet of your movie is fine, but it's very hard to do it in a way that is inclusive of a broad audience. Not everyone will have a Christian background and tolerate a movie so brazen about its beliefs. The problem with the way The Shift tackles religion is that it doesn't provide the viewer with much context. Its blunt use of religion is what gives it that straight-to-DVD Christian morality play feel. There's no problem with that in itself, especially for a film that tackles the story of Job, but I feel it lessens the appeal of The Shift.

The story of Job is such an interesting theological conundrum that wrestles with the notions of suffering, divine justice, and the possibility of a God largely indifferent to the subjects that love him. These themes are briefly touched upon, but The Shift could have explored them further and deeper.

Neal McDonough is the standout as the Benefactor, and he brings much needed gravitas to The Shift, leaving you wanting more of his performance. Knowing how strong an actor he is; he feels woefully underutilised. Especially since The Shift shines brightest when the philosophical side of the book of Job is explored between the protagonist and antagonist, but there's way too little of that in a film pushing two hours long.

The Shift has unique concepts and offers a novel take on a classic biblical story. It's only hampered by how it incorporates Christianity in a way that feels like it's only intended for insiders, when its true strengths shine when it concentrates on the more theological side of things.

The Shift is available on Digital Download from the 25th March & Blu-ray and DVD from 1st April