Angel Studios, known for The Chosen and The Sound of Freedom, recently released a sci-fi film loosely based on the Book of Job: The Shift. Unfortunately, the film is not as compelling as it's studio predecessors.
There are good things to say about the film. Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha), after meeting and marrying Molly (Elizabeth Tabish), will go to the ends of the earth, and beyond, to be with her. That kind of love is something that is sorely needed in today's world, a love that will sacrifice anything for the beloved, like Jesus's sacrifice on the cross for us. This alone will be inspiring for some audience members.
Neal McDonough, who plays a character called The Benefactor, but is actually the devil, is a man of faith himself and doesn't hide his light under a bushel basket. It is testament to his phenomenal acting that he makes the devil seem likeable. Readers of C.S. Lewis will recognize the influence of The Screwtape Letters in The Benefactor, who seems to know just what to say to tempt Kevin into giving up on his quest.
Neal McDonough as The Benefactor in "The Shift." © 2023 Angel Studios. All Rights Reserved.
What is the quest? Kevin has been sucked into a parallel universe, one that is not his own. The Benefactor explains that there are an infinite number of universes made possible by the varying choices we make. One altered choice and things may have turned out different. Kevin spends the rest of the movie trying to get back to "his" Molly, so much does he love her. I'm thinking that writer-director Brock Heasley has seen too many movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tried to make the concept of parallel universes work in this story. Alas, the reasons for the shifting around remain cloaked in confusion.
When Kevin finds himself in a dystopian universe where Scripture is banned, he writes down what he can remember, sometimes in his own words, and secretly passes the pages around through his friends. There is Gabriel (Sean Astin), Russo (John Billingsley) and Rajit Nadir (Paras Patel). But it seems that he can't really trust anyone, and, like Job's friends in the Bible, finds himself wondering if his friends are really a help or a hindrance. Such is the influence of The Benefactor.
Elizabeth Tabish as Molly and Kristoffer Polaha as Kevin in "The Shift." © 2023 Angel Studios. All Rights Reserved.
As a fan of the science fiction genre, I think the idea of a faithful man stuck in a faithless universe could have been a fascinating one. It is unfortunate that The Shift fails to give the audience enough reason to care about what happens to Kevin and an ending that stretches even the most forgiving suspender of disbelief. As much as I love the Bible, the addition of Scripture quotes in the middle of the narrative also violates the number one rule of filmmaking: show don't tell.
Let's hope that Angel Studios does a better job on their upcoming projects. I'm especially looking forward to Cabrini on the life of the first American citizen to be canonized, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. Look for it in theaters on March 8, 2024.