NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, December 1st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
Coming up on The World and Everything in It: a new faith-based movie arrives in theaters this weekend.
This year has seen a resurgence in the faith-based movie genre. You’re seeing higher production values and higher profits.
But not all faith-based movies are necessarily faithful movies. And in that vein, arts and culture editor Collin Garbarino brings us a review of The Shift.
THE BENEFACTOR: Imagine having the power to move people from one reality to the next.
COLLIN GARBARINO: Angel Studios, the company that makes The Chosen TV series, has a new faith-based movie hitting theaters this weekend. The Shift is a sci-fi thriller inspired by the Biblical story of Job. That’s not what you were expecting, was it? Yeah, me neither… which is why I was interested to check it out.
THE BENEFACTOR: For every choice you make there are countless other realities where you make a different choice. Choice breeds infinite possibilities. Choice breeds realities.
The Shift is a multiverse movie. An infinite number of realities exist side by side, but the narrative follows just one guy named Kevin, who’s down on his luck. At least until he meets Molly.
KEVIN: What was the dare?
MOLLY: To talk to you. Find out what your deal is. And get you interested so you ask me out.
Molly and Kevin hit it off, and immediately start imagining what life together would be like. First date, fifth date, church life. A family.
MOLLY: And then there’s the bad thing that happens.
KEVIN: Hold on, wait up. What is “the bad thing”?
MOLLY: I have no idea, but it will happen.
Every movie needs conflict—so yeah—the bad thing happens.
SOUND: [Squealing tires and crash]
But it’s not just one bad thing. Kevin loses everything he’s ever held dear when a mysterious man who calls himself “The Benefactor” shifts Kevin into a different reality.
THE BENEFACTOR: I’m here to help you. You OK?
We know right away that the Benefactor isn’t looking to help anyone but himself. He’s an agent of chaos who represents Satan. He’s stolen away the good things in Kevin’s life, but he offers to replace them with worldly power… if only Kevin will work for him.
THE BENEFACTOR: Let me lift you out of that embarrassing farce you call life and give you something glorious. Just say the word.
Kevin refuses, and he begins his quest to find his way out of this hell he’s been shifted into… and find his way back to Molly.
THE BENEFACTOR: You’re a halfway decent guy, but it’s the other half that I’m particularly fond of.
The Shift is a visually intriguing movie. It has a gritty Blade Runner aesthetic, and the Benefactor’s henchmen march around in eerie face-less helmets. The lighting effects and cinematography are excellent. I especially loved one relatively long shot in which the camera follows a waitress around a cafe before resting on Kevin and the Benefactor. It was a beautiful bit of camera work, and that attention to detail impressed me.
THE BENEFACTOR: Small deviations work best, but this was a big shift. Big shifts take people out of the game.
The actors gave solid performances. Kevin is played by Kristoffer Polaha—the star of numerous Hallmark Christmas movies. Elizabeth Tabish from The Chosen plays Molly. Neal McDonough, who is the Band of Brothers miniseries and Captain America, makes for a convincing Benefactor. And we even get Sean Astin from The Lord of the Rings as one of Kevin’s less than comforting friends.
GABRIEL: I don’t think they’re just going to shift you back to your wife because you asked nice.
KEVIN: Then I’m not going to ask nice. I will find a way.
GABRIEL: That is a terrible plan, terrible.
But despite its interesting premise and strong production values, Christians looking for a faith-based movie should be wary of The Shift. Brock Heasley, the film’s writer and director, is a Mormon, and the story is clearly told from that perspective. The Christian understanding of grace is absent in this film. Instead Kevin must earn Heavenly Father’s favor by living a life devoted to good deeds.
Heasley says the movie is about hope in the midst of grief, and that it’s inspired by the book of Job. But his Mormon upbringing keeps him from actually understanding Job’s story. Yes, Job and Kevin both lose their families along with their wealth and health. But that’s where the similarities end. Kevin responds by doing good deeds trying to atone for his past mistakes. Job didn’t have any past mistakes to atone for. He was a righteous man who just cried out to God asking, “Why me?” Heasley falls into the same trap that Job’s comforters did by inventing a reason for suffering.
THE BENEFACTOR: Do you honestly think that he will help you after what you just did? You are tainted goods. You’re not even worth his effort anymore.
With all this multiversal free-choice stuff, Heasley shies away from the hard truth that God is in control of everything, including our suffering. In The Shift, Kevin’s final confrontation is with the Devil who’s been tormenting him. But Job’s final showdown was with God himself, who answers Job out of the whirlwind. God doesn’t blame Job’s trials on Satan. Instead he tells Job that humans don’t have the right to question God.
Job is one of the most challenging books in the Bible. When we suffer loss, should we be like Heasley and blame the Devil, or should we be like Job and say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”? And do we try to earn our own salvation like Kevin, or do we say with Job, “ I know that my Redeemer lives,” humbly acknowledging that we don’t redeem ourselves?
I’m Collin Garbarino.
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