Combustible Celluloid Review - The Shift (2023), Brock Heasley, Brock Heasley, Neal McDonough, Kristoffer Polaha, Sean Astin, Elizabeth Tabish, Rose Reid, Jordan Alexandra, Paras Patel, John Billingsley
Combustible Celluloid
With: Neal McDonough, Kristoffer Polaha, Sean Astin, Elizabeth Tabish, Rose Reid, Jordan Alexandra, Paras Patel, John Billingsley
Written by: Brock Heasley
Directed by: Brock Heasley
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and thematic elements
Running Time: 115
Date: 12/01/2023

The Shift (2023)

2 Stars (out of 4)

The Devil in the Details

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Blessed with decent visual FX and acting, this faith-based sci-fi movie nevertheless struggles with an incoherent screenplay, a failed attempt to mesh the story of Job with a modern-day romance.

Kevin Garner (Kristoffer Polaha) is a family man whose life has fallen apart after the disappearance of his son. His relationship with his beloved wife Molly (Elizabeth Tabish) has especially been tested. He meets a man who calls himself The Benefactor (Neal McDonough), who promises Kevin everything he could ever desire. Sensing that there would be a terrible price, Kevin refuses the offer. He prays, and finds himself transported, or "shifted," into an alternate dimension, while the Benefactor vanishes.

It's a dystopian world, bleak and full of suffering. Kevin spends five years trying to find a way home, and in the meantime, keeps his sanity by writing out as much scripture as he can remember (scripture is illegal in this universe). He smuggles pages to those who need them via his friend Gabriel (Sean Astin). One day, the Benefactor returns. Kevin concocts a plan to threaten him with a gun to get him to send him back to Molly, but things go haywire when Kevin finds himself in possession of his own shifting device.

The Shift is largely about the concept of being tested by God in order to prove one's faith, while avoiding succumbing to weakness (the devil). But in terms of the story, it doesn't make much sense. Even the Benefactor makes an argument that Kevin's being tested is pointless, and it's hard to argue against him. Moreover, there's no particular reason for the Benefactor to "shift" people into different realities, other than the fact that it makes for some cool FX.

Additionally, for some reason, the Kevin character is famous, known by all as "The Kevin Who Refused." The Benefactor says that all other Kevins in all other realities took his deal. But why is Kevin the important one? What does his fame have to do with anything? There are other plot twists that seem forced, and an ending that, if you think about it for a second, is downright stalker-ish.

The Shift has its heart in the right place when it speaks about finding beauty and kindness in the world, that people aren't all bad, but its storytelling logic is so muddled that it doesn't have much hope of reaching beyond the already converted.

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