Reviewed by: Shawna Ellis
|Average (somewhat offensive) to Offensive
|Adults Young-Adults Teens
|Christian Sci-Fi Thriller
|1 hr. 55 min.
|Year of Release:
December 1, 2023 (wide release)
Who is the man Job in the Bible? Answer
About the Book of Job
Parallel universes — an unBiblical idea
What is the goodness of God?
Neal McDonough … The Benefactor
Kristoffer Polaha … Kevin Garner
Sean Astin … Gabriel
Elizabeth Tabish … Molly Garner
Emily Rose … Tabitha
Jason Marsden … Cyrus
Rose Reid … Tina
John Billingsley … Russo
Nolan North … Brett
Jordan Alexandra … Priya Nadir
See all »
Nook Lane Entertainmen
Pinnacle Peak Pictures
Salt Shaker Media
See all »
“Infinite worlds. Endless choices. One way out.”
“The Shift” is the most recent theatrical release by Angel Studios, the filmmakers behind other titles such as “The Chosen” series and the very successful “Sound of Freedom.” It has an unusual and ambitious premise… it’s a faith-based sci-fi dystopian thriller which loosely mirrors the biblical account of Job, in which a man must evade supernatural enemies and navigate alternate realities in order to find the woman he loves. While this may sound like a lot to have in one film, it comes together surprisingly well to make an entertaining and engaging movie which can be an encouragement to believers, with some cautions.
Unfortunately, as is the case with most faith-based films, some secular viewers may call it “preachy” or heavy-handed, especially since there are actual Scripture excerpts from the book of Job shown onscreen at intervals. And also while the message shown does acknowledge the goodness and sovereignty of God, unfortunately there were opportunities missed for presenting the gospel.
Coming from production companies of various beliefs (including Mormonism), “The Shift” offers a “good versus evil” generality rather than any distinct gospel focus, aside from a brief mention of the empty tomb and a piece of jewelry which represents this.
While the lead character is a Christian believer, we do not hear about the saving work of Jesus Christ. We do however see strong acts of faith and trust in God, even when faced with terrible circumstances.
Occasionally, Bible verses from the book of Job are presented onscreen, but don’t focus too strongly on trying to find parallels between the film and the biblical account, as it is fairly general.
Faith-based films have (at times unfairly) become almost a byword for “mediocre” and “amateurish,” although there have been great advances in filmmaking in recent years. Such films sometimes have small budgets, limited choices in actors, and may be so eager to give the message that story-telling and production values suffer.
“The Shift” had a relatively small budget (less than $7 million), but does not lack too much in any of these areas. Cinematography and the majority of special effects are mostly on par for the sci-fi genera, and the musical score is tense but not invasive. The story itself is creative, and somehow manages to feel fresh even in a moviemaking era overflowing with “multi-verse” films.
I have to admit that some of the sci-fi machinations such as the wristband “shifting devices” are a little cheesy, and the politics of the dystopian world are somewhat vague. But the setting isn’t really the focus of this film, as it is one driven by characters.
Most performances are quite good, with Neal McDonough as “The Benefactor” being a particular standout. He is both convincing and chilling in this difficult role. I found myself unable to look away during his screentime, feeling deeply uncomfortable and somehow challenged… as if I were watching a theatrical performance of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
The main protagonist Kevin Garner (Kristoffer Polaha) is solid enough as a man surviving as best he can, and his wife Molly Garner (Elizabeth Tabish) is convincing in her brief screentime. Their chemistry as a couple is believable, but we catch just barely enough glimpses into their romance, marriage and struggles through flashbacks.
Most of the story follows Kevin as he tries to navigate life and seek answers in a bleak alternate reality, spreading hope and light in small ways with those he encounters. In this way the story centers on one being a light and a hope in darkness, and indeed even the song “This Little Light of Mine” is used as both a theme and a plot point.
Kevin is a man of enduring faith, and we even see him typing out Scripture (as best he remembers it) to distribute to others in a world in which the Bible is outlawed. As in the Book of Job, Kevin faces questions from others who don’t understand how he maintains faith despite horrible trials. “What are you doing wrong? Why doesn’t your God help you if He loves you so much?” The film’s depictions of doubt, grief, temptation, and more are very grounded and real despite the sci-fi setting.
The movie does require considerable suspension of disbelief because it involves a “multiverse” scenario. The concept of alternate universes with thousands of variations of each individual is not a premise that is supported by Scripture but has become a common story-telling device. There is also the possibility that it may be making allusion to Mormon cosmology which has reference to “other worlds.” We certainly can’t use a film based on this premise to support doctrine, but we have to just accept it as a plot device essential for the telling of this story and not a point of theology or accurate worldview.
VIOLENCE: There are some intense scenes of violence including chases, gunfights, riots, rough handling, threats, and more—with some bloody wounds shown. The dystopian world has soldiers with frightening aspects who threaten and attack civilians. A woman is forcefully restrained by guards. There is a car accident. Characters are often in peril. A main character has a frightening visage and manner.
LANGUAGE: Language is very mild with a couple uses of “cr*p” and “piss*d,” with one hurried use of “my G*d” that does not seem to be in reverence.
SEX AND NUDITY: There are a few kisses between a couple, both before and after marriage. A male is seen shirtless after a shower (not sexual). A few women have low cut shirts, and a brief scene takes place in what is assumed to be a strip club with women in slightly risqué outfits (nothing overt, just implied). Another scene shows two scantily clad women with a man seated on a couch, also brief with nothing overt.
DRUGS AND ALCOHOL: A lengthy scene takes place in a bar in which recovering alcoholics are tempted to drink but end up not doing so. In another scene a woman takes a sip of beer. A grieving character has a glass of wine in hand. Characters go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
OTHER: The premise of “multiple realities” is not biblical.
There is much to be said in this movie about hope, love and being a light in a dark place. It also shows the depravity of sin, the deceptions of Satan, and how our decisions both good and bad can affect others. But a multiverse type story in which people are moved about at whim diminishes two things which are supported by the Bible: God’s ultimate sovereignty and our own free will to make choices.
One concern I have with “The Shift” is that The Benefactor’s arguments are so persuasive that some viewers may come away actually AGREEING with his points, simply because there is not a strong counterpoint from the lead actor, aside from his own personal faith and conviction. A great deal of time is spent arguing AGAINST keeping faith during difficulty, AGAINST the love of God, AGAINST God’s goodness, and more… yet very little time is spent countering these points with truth that the viewer may need to hear. Can these questions be answered with anything besides “just have faith”? Yes, certainly! And many of them are addressed even here on this site.
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?
Why is the world the way it is? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) Answer
What does God say about FORGIVENESS OF SIN? Answer
There are scriptural answers to these difficult questions, but they are not really addressed in “The Shift.” Instead, we see one man doing good works as he can and standing stalwart in his faith, which is of course a positive thing. I only wish that it could have been accompanied more decisively by Who that faith was in… the Lord Jesus Christ.
Discover God’s promise for all people—told beautifully and clearly from the beginning. Discover The HOPE! Watch it on Christian Answers—full-length motion picture.
Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer
How good is good enough? Answer
Will all mankind eventually be saved? Answer
Is it entertaining? I found it to be so. Is it appropriate? Mostly, for teens and up, with the largest content of concern being violence. I recommend “The Shift” with some caution, as its premise of various universes can be confusing (especially to young people or new believers) and the many spiritual questions that are raised by the film are not adequately answered, nor is the saving work of Christ acknowledged in what many are going to call “a Christian film.”
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.