I was absolutely stunned watching The Shift. It is beautiful. Poignant. Intelligent.
I am a very harsh movie critic, since the only way to rid the world of cheesy Christian movies that don’t glorify Jesus is to start calling them out. So having an English Literature degree and a lot of Systematic Theology and Christian Doctrine classes in college, I evaluate movies from a theological and literary standpoint.
It is with that lens that I can say without reservation I consider The Shift the best movie – Christian or mainstream – since The Passion of the Christ.
Kristen’s Harsh Movie Review
The Shift is reminiscent of a modern-day Job.
“What’s fascinating about the story of Job is that it begins at a point where he is already incredibly faithful,” award-winning filmmaker Brock Heasley told CNJ,”and then his extreme trials begin. That’s us, as believers.”
The suffering protagonist, Kevin Garner, is played by the unexpected Kristoffer Polaha (Wonder Woman 1984, Mad Men). Unexpected in that he is best-known for starring in lighthearted Hallmark movies. That juxtaposition alone is worth the price of a ticket.
Our hero, Kevin, shifts into another world, and is desperate to get back to his wife, Molly, brilliantly played by Elisabeth Tabish (Mary Magdalene in The Chosen).
“We believe and have trust and faith in Christ,” Heasley said, “and yet our lives are not perfect. In some ways, they get even harder.”
Enter The Benefactor. The horrifying Neal McDonough (Band of Brothers, Yellowstone, Captain America). He will “help” Kevin get back to Molly.
“Job’s story tells us that in this life we will always have fires we will have to pass through,” the filmmaker told CNJ. “It’s in our response to those fires that our faith is proven and strengthened. And through that, we will see God more clearly.”
With The Shift, written and directed by the brilliant Heasley, Christians have FINALLY beaten Hollywood at their own game. Yes, you read that right.
For anyone who thinks Hollywood makes better movies than Christians, think again. In this theologically and literary educated author’s opinion, The Shift is better (more entertaining and well-done) than ANY Hollywood movie since The Avengers.
I consider this the top 3 of Christian films and shows: The Passion of the Christ, the TV series Vindication, and now The Shift.
But Is It Really Sci-Fi If It’s True?
“I love sci-fi,” Elisabeth Tabish told CNJ. “It explores the human heart and the human spirit in these different scenarios that challenge what it means to be human.”
Though billed as sci-fi, I consider that an insult to this film, as sci-fi typically denies the Scriptures, thereby nulling its authenticity. This film is actually very authentic, so doesn’t have a sci-fi, fake feel.
But no surprise, as comic and fantasy writers are usually more intelligent and creative than mainstream writers (think J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis). Heasley whose work has been featured in the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum, is also the author of the graphic novel collection The SuperFogeys, about a retired bunch of superheroes.
“I am a lover of sci-fi,” Heasley told CNJ, “and there are lots of stories about man vs. the devil, but I’ve never seen that told from the perspective of a Christian.”
Heasley added, “The Shift has been eight years in the making. In that time, we’ve gone from a $500 short film to a multi-million-dollar feature film debuting in around 2,500 theaters nationwide. I am so grateful to Angel Studios for believing in this story and helping to bring it to audiences. All of this – it must be said – has only happened because of Him.”
As a reviewer, I knew this film would be something special, since award-winning actor Neal McDonough is in it, but with this, I now want to warn viewers to be on the lookout going forward for all things director Brock Heasley and lead actor, Kristoffer Polaha are doing – this movie is PHENOMENAL. Brock and Polaha are GOING PLACES.
Expert Casting by Beverly Holloway
Beverly Holloway’s casting choices are superb – again, not something often accomplished in Christian movies, which seem to (insert cringe here) delight in pairing a creepy leading man opposite a demure woman who in the real world wouldn’t give him the time of day. (This is because the majority of Christian movies are vanity pieces, see my article for Moms: Moms: You have the Power! – Christian News Journal)
Holloway’s casting of the unexpected Hallmark favorite Polaha as an “every man” type is brilliant and unexpected. Viwers would normally expect someone like Jim Caviezel, who always looks sad, to play a Job-like character, so to see a happy-looking Polaha in the depths of despair is shocking. It stays with you even more than if Caviezel would play the role, just for that reason, because Polaha is so friendly and happy looking in most parts.
So, it’s truly shocking to see him downtrodden and suffering as if a modern-day Job. It is actually something I don’t think I’ll forget for a long time.
Holloway’s casting of Elizabeth Tabish, who is reminiscent of Vindication‘s brilliantly understated Venus Monique, opposite the affable “every man” is very shrewd. Without Tabish’s steadied gravitas the film would have devolved into trite.
“Well, what do you mean by this, Kristen, you very harsh media critic?”
Think of it this way – you see all the airheads in the Hallmark movies. And in this instance I mean the women. When you place a happy-go-lucky man opposite a woman of substance, such as Tabish, that keeps the film from devolving into trite. Two bubble-heads = cheesy movie.
And that’s what makes Holloway’s casting so shrewd.
And which is where most Christian (and Hallmark) movies don’t seem to have a clue – that by pairing the happy-go-lucky Polaha with the thoughtful, but very pleasant Tablish, you get a realistic (not cheesy), and authentic example of a real life couple. Because more often than not, in life, in real marriages, you have one person who is serious, and the other a cut-up. And usually it’s the man who’s the rascal (in my case) and the woman who needs to lighten up (also in my case). Hence, realism. In film.
The Shift‘s hero, Kevin Garner, has suffered the worst life has to offer, but yet he still finds joy in the suffering. Beauty.
That is the lesson of the film.
That in the hardest times, that is when we find God the most. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18
I won’t give it away, but just like in the Bible, with Job being restored, the denouement is beautifully portrayed by Tabish and Polaha. It is not cut short, as most films seem to enjoy doing, pulling the heart of of you just when you celebrate the restoration. Instead, The Shift gives you what you deserve. A happy ending and “the joy of the LORD” (Nehemiah 8:10) which is your reward for having vicariously endured the hero’s suffering.
And like our hero, Kevin, we all grow from having watched this poignant message of trust in the LORD. For He is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9).
An Intimate Portrayal of Every Man’s Suffering
Kristoffer Polaha’s intimate portrayal of an “every man” suffering…is profound….
My husband, Kevin Sott Collier, an award-winning author, illustrator, animator and entertainment historian watched the film with me, and we will never forget this. We’ve suffered a lot in our lives, as Christian artists…so know it when we see it in others…
Polaha did an amazing job of showing that suffering, but balancing it with hope.
For example: think of your average audience member, a football loving, Dancing With the Stars watching “every man” or woman. Generally happy as long as they can drink some beer or party with their friends on the weekend. They turn off when they see someone who is always sad, such as with Jim Caviezel’s amazing portrayal of the betrayed Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo, one of the few movies I actually own.
Conversely, when you show them an “every man” type like Kristoffer Polaha, who looks happy most of the time, even showing traces of happiness amidst his suffering, it makes his suffering that much more dramatic….and hard…and poignant…to watch. It is unforgettable.
Yes, This Film is Artistic!
And, dear readers, you will be shocked to see that a Christian movie actually employs symbolism, and other artistic elements, I kid you not! Unlike just about every film and Christian show besides Vindication, this one does NOT insult your intelligence. (I’ll give you a hint, the symbolism is in the hotel room scenes at the end.)
If you think that Christians need to get all weird and cloudy and gauzy when portraying spiritual warfare – think again. This is realistic. Gritty.
(But I won’t tell you more than that, I’m going to challenge you to watch it yourself, and give your brain a dusting off, remember your high school English days and what your teacher taught you about symbolism, then write me and see if you guess right: [email protected])
More Authentic Than The Handmaid’s Tale
This film reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale (what a sick, disgusting show!) in its gritty portrayal of realistic suffering and End Times violence. However what that filthy show got wrong, The Shift gets right. In other words, because Handmaid denies reality by twisting the Scriptures, it, along with the majority of sci-fi shows, feels inauthentic. Fake.
But because The Shift affirms biblical truths, it doesn’t feel sci-fi at all, but very authentic.
I was absolutely glued to the screen from the first second of the film and it held my attention the entire time. I couldn’t look away.
The Shift Gets My Harsh, All-Time High Movie Rating:
This film gets my highest possible rating, a perfect score of 3/3:
- It has the ability to reach the mainstream.
- It is authentic.
- I absolutely loved it and was entertained the entire time.
Some Behind-the-Scenes Actor Info On:
Neal McDonough is absolutely terrifying as The Benefactor. Just terrifying. And excellent.
When Kevin shifts into other worlds (you had me at multiverse) to reunite with Molly, The Benefactor (McDonough) threatens his survival.
Who will win?
There can be only one!
(And that is Adrian Paul, of course)
But this is not the Scottish Highlands, nor is it the MCU, of which McDonough is no slouch:
On November 27, 2023, entertainment news site Den of Geek called McDonough one of “The Unsung Heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe” for his character, Dum Dum Dugan, Nick Fury’s right-hand man in Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Carter and Agents of SHIELD.
“[E]very single appearance of Dum Dum stands out, thanks to actor Neal McDonough,” the entertainment site reported. “…McDonough knows how to deliver silly lines with a welcoming wink” of his trademark light blue, bold eyes Neal McDonough. “Whether he’s talking smack about Hydra or about bikinis with Howard Stark, Dum Dum brings old-school charm to the modern MCU.”
And lest you think he’s just another [dumb Marvel] superhero, readers should know that McDonough, with over 100 IMDb credits going back to 1990 studied at the London Academy of Dramatic Arts.
McDonough perhaps best known for Desperate Houswives or from 2012’s Green Arrow series, told CNJ,
Kristoffer Polaha (Jurassic World Dominion (2022) is no stranger to time travel in movies, as his newest movie, A Biltmore Christmas, which premiered November 26, 2023 on the Hallmark Channel is the story of a writer who travels back in time to the famed manse in 1947. The film was shot entirely on location at the historic Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.
But Polaha’s real life love story is much richer. He has been married to his wife, Julianne Morris who attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, since 2003. The Polaha’s have given all three of their actor sons biblically inspired names. Their eldest, Kristoffer’s, first name means “bearing Christ.” Their middle son, Micah’s, name means “who is like a Jahveh,” and youngest, Jude’s, name means “praised” (Jude).
Elizabeth Tabish It is no surprise award-winning actor and director Elizabeth Tabish expertly displays a balance of gravitas coupled with modernity in The Shift for she holds a Master of Arts in Theater. Tabish plays Molly Garner, the wife protagonist Kevin is desperately trying to get back to. Best known as Mary Magdalene in The Chosen, the actress performs a beautiful, emotive portrayal of a treasured wife and partner in The Shift. Tabish’ thoughtful, yet upbeat demeanor is the perfect foil to Polaha’s suffering, though he does remain hope-filled through the turmoil.
Elisabeth Tabish lives in Ohio with her husband. She is Co-Founder and Art Director of the avante-garde Arthouse Film Festival, which started in 2018, and holds screenings in Austin, TX, New York City and Los Angeles.
Sean Astin: The Lord of the Rings and Stranger Things alum Sean Astin plays Gabriel in The Shift, but this one’s no archangel, and this is also not the first time Astin and McDonough have collaborated. Astin narrated Truth and Life’s dramatized Audio Bible, in which McDonough voiced Christ.
The Shift, masterfully produced by Ken Carpenter and distributed by Angel Studios, hits theaters nationwide on December 1, 2023.
For show times and tickets: The Shift | Coming to Theaters December 1
Buy the Beautiful “He Lives” Necklace Worn in the Film
You can even buy the beautiful “He Lives” necklace worn in the movie, so amazing, and so timely – the perfect Christmas gift, a reminder of hope in “a lost and dying generation.” I absolutely love it, and it does not seem merchandising/cheesy, but again is so authentic. Only filmmaker Brock Heasley – and perhaps Mel Gibson – could pull this off, without it feeling tacked-on.
Kristen Collier has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and is the author of the “exciting ecclesiastical thriller,” King of Glory, a supernatural love story about the Second Coming. She is co-founder, animator and producer at Collier Animation Studio, whose cartoons appear on streaming TV. Collier, a Hollywood Prayer Network MI Chapter Director, is also co-director of Allendale Christian Media, a department of St. John Lutheran Church.