Late Shift review: Cinema setting detracts from game-like nature of 'interactive movie'

Late Shift, an interactive movie by CtrlMovie.
Late Shift, an interactive movie by CtrlMovie.

Length: Up to 97 minutes
Cast: Joe Sowerbutts, Haruka Abe, Joel Basman, Lily Travers
Director: Tobias Weber
Release details: At Golden Village theatres from 22 April (Singapore)

3 out of 5 stars

SINGAPORE — The concept behind Late Shift, an "interactive movie" which has been brought to Singapore by Golden Village, is interesting. It's a novel experience to be able to bring into cinema theatres the game-like features of the "choose your own adventure" format which has been used in game books, video games and Netflix. However, in practice, it may or may not appeal to you, depending on what you're looking for in your movie-going experience.

Late Shift follows London college student and part-time car park attendant, Matt, who begins the film working a late shift but gets unwillingly pulled into a criminal operation involving the heist of a priceless piece of Ming Dynasty porcelain.

The "unique" thing about this movie is that the audience gets to make choices for Matt as he faces various decisions throughout the movie – this is done so through an app on your phone. Should he sabotage his fellow criminal or go along with the plan? Try to escape while at gunpoint or surrender? Argue with another character or keep quiet? The movie hall gets to choose collectively; Matt will do whatever the majority chooses.

Late Shift, an interactive movie by CtrlMovie. (Photo: CtrlMovie)
You make the choices in this game-like experience. (Photo: CtrlMovie)

The film was produced in 2016 by video game maker CtrlMovie, who also makes the app that you use to make story choices. The film/game has apparently already travelled to theatres in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Incidentally, Late Shift is also available as a video game on the App Store and Steam. The production value of the film is not bad, though it does fall short as compared to the usual Hollywood films.

I say "unique" in quote marks above because this kind of interactive film format has already been experimented on by Netflix in special episodes of Black Mirror (Bandersnatch) and Impossible Kimmy Schmidt. But in a movie theatre setting as opposed to a streaming format, this gimmick runs into certain problems.

The movie/game is pretty exciting and engaging if you're simply looking for a vicarious adventure as a movie character. But since the choices you make are not necessarily the same as those of your fellow movie-goers, Matt may not make the choices that you want. (However, if you were to play the game as an individual on your phone or computer, this problem wouldn't apply.)

I found that there was too little time given for you to make each choice presented to you. You're required to continuously switch your eyeline between the theatre screen and your phone screen, and tap on your phone to select your decision. But the choice options disappear within a few seconds, so I often wasn't quick enough to make my selection, which kind of defeats the purpose of the experience. (Again, if you were playing such a game on your own screen, and tapping and viewing the same screen, insufficient reaction time would be less of an issue.)

Late Shift, an interactive movie by CtrlMovie. (Photo: CtrlMovie)
The main character's actions are decided by the movie theatre audience collectively. (Photo: CtrlMovie)

Personally, I like my movie experience to involve a cohesive storyline, cohesive characters, and cohesive theme. But that isn't possible with a movie like Late Shift. How can the character be consistent if his actions are determined almost randomly by a poll of the theatre audience? There are supposed to be seven possible endings to the story; the version that I ended up with during my viewing was a particularly unsatisfying ending. I shan't spoil it for you but the story just didn't feel whole for me, with the ending that was thrust upon me. (Once again, if you were playing this like a normal game that you could just repeat and choose a different ending, this wouldn't be a problem.)

lf you decide to go ahead and try this "interactive movie" anyway, and, like me, don't like the ending that you get, you can purchase another ticket at a discount for another viewing (that's a smart revenue generator, I must say.) My hack for you, though, is to purchase the game on the App Store and play the whole storyline for S$6.98 – that way, you can repeat the game and choices unlimitedly to your satisfaction!

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