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The Shift (2023)

Angel Studios, the upstart production company behind the recent Christian film hits "Sound of Freedom" and "After Death", as well as the hit TV series "The Chosen", has scored another winner in 2023 with "The Shift." This genre-bending movie puts a modern spin on the biblical classic, the Book of Job, while retaining familiar traits that should satisfy the Christian core audience. Yet the film also takes bold, creative risks in embracing mainstream sci-fi and thriller elements, breathing new cinematic life into the timeworn tale.

We open in 2007, in the midst of the harrowing global financial collapse. Audiences meet Kevin Garner, played with desperation and grit by Kristoffer Polaha, a once successful Wall Street broker now drowning his sorrows over his lost fortune at a hotel bar. Into his gloom walks an angel of hope - the vivacious Molly (Elizabeth Tabish who plays Mary Magdalene on The Chosen), out with girlfriends and playfully dared to approach the morose Kevin. What follows is an ingenious "meet cute," with Molly musing their destined courtship aloud through whimsical flash-forwards. It's a charming scene that lulls audiences into a false sense of romantic comedy before director Brock Heasley violently shifts gears.

Kevin suffers a horrific car accident, emerging bloodied and disoriented into the company of a mysterious figure who introduces himself as "The Benefactor." Played with icy menace by Neal McDonough, The Benefactor initially presents himself as a gracious savior. But his kind facade soon morphs into imposing cruelty when, to Kevin's horror and the audience's dizzying confusion, he somehow causes an innocent waitress to vanish into thin air.

So begins Kevin's Job-like tribulations, as he endures tragic, undeserved loss at the hands of this malevolent force. Heasley deserves ample praise for the sheer narrative ambition here. Following the intricate, rapid-fire storytelling requires unrelenting focus, with little room for distraction. For fans of heady mystery thrillers, this is a feat; for some Christian viewers accustomed to safer, gentler fare, it may prove an immense challenge. Yet the core message remains intact through all the genre-bending, connecting with perhaps the oldest and truest moral tale of humanity's resilience.

While this certainly isn't family movie night fare, Heasley's stylistic risks may well pay off with crossover appeal beyond the built-in evangelical base. "The Shift" represents a bold new evolution in Christian cinema, one rooted in ancient wisdom yet speaking to modern crowds in their own cinematic language. This thriller has struck storytelling gold. Highly recommended.

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