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Neal McDonough Compares ‘The Shift’ to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with ‘a Sci-Fi Backdrop’

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Actor Neal McDonough says the latest movie from Angel Studios has echoes of a classic movie from 1946.

The film, The Shift, can be compared to “It’s a Wonderful Life” but “in a sci-fi backdrop,” McDonough told Christian Headlines. 

Officially, The Shift (PG-13), which opens this weekend, is being billed as a modern-day retelling of the biblical book of Job. It follows the story of a man named Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha) who gets separated from his wife in a multiverse when a Satan-like character, known as The Benefactor, transports him to another reality. Kevin then fights to reconnect with her. 

Still, it does have parallels to the black-and-white classic. 

“Kris is Jimmy Stewart in this film, and he gets dragged through it all,” McDonough added.

The film also stars Elizabeth Tabish (The Chosen), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Rose Reid (Finding You), Jordan Walker Ross (The Chosen), and Paras Patel (The Chosen). Polaha is perhaps best known for his roles in Hallmark Channel titles and movies like Jurassic World Dominion and Wonder Woman: 1984.

McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger, Band of Brothers) portrays The Benefactor.

“When they asked me to play the devil, I was like, ‘No, I can’t,’” McDonough told Christian Headlines. “I’ve played some very dark characters in Justified or Yellowstone or Walking Tall or whatever. But I thought that was just a little too far. And then I went home, and I told my wife, Ruve, who’s also my production partner [about the project]. And she said, ‘Well, look, you’re probably the best villain in Hollywood, you have such an incredible relationship with God, [so] you kind of have to do that because if they cast the wrong person in this film, then it could come off kind of dark and sleazy and it wouldn’t have any humanity to the character.”

McDonough is grateful he took the role. The film, he said, spotlights “hope in the face of despair” and “light in the landscape of darkness that Hollywood keeps churning out.”

Brock Heasley, the director, said the movie blends two elements — sci-fi and faith — that are rarely combined.

“I want to make the films that I want to see. And I’m a huge sci-fi fan. And my faith is important to me. And those are not two things that usually mix. [But] I don’t really understand why — sci-fi is such a great vehicle for exploring ideas and truths and principles through metaphor and allegory,” Heasley told Christian Headlines. “… And so, why not? Why not talk about faith through this really unique vehicle that actually brings people in?

“Of the top 10 movies of all time, seven of them are sci-fi films. Sci-fi is a pretty popular way of telling a story and getting some ideas and some messages out there. To me, it seemed like a natural fit, even though it’s not really something I’ve seen too much of.”

Photo Courtesy: Angel Studios

Video Courtesy: Angel Studios via YouTube


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Looking for Wholesome Family Films This Christmas Season? Listen to Our Culture Expert Share Her Top 5 Family-Centered Films – Perfect for Family Movie Night!

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.





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