Originally released overseas in 2016, even before Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Late Shift truly does mark one of the earliest interactive films, and possibly, the first of its kind to receive a cinematic release in Singapore. The concept is simple – download a special app on your smartphone prior to the show, and use it to make key decisions over the course of your experience, affecting the final outcome.
You heard that right – audiences are not just encouraged, but expected to use their phones in the cinema for this show. Of course, that comes with the expectations that audience members will be responsible phone users, and ensure that their devices are strictly to be used for the app, and not to distract or disrupt the show experience.
It’s certainly a new way of attending the cinema, making us key decision-makers and able to affect the way the show plays out. Interesting format aside, the show itself begins as our protagonist Matt (Joe Sowerbutts) works the titular ‘late shift’ at a garage. Things quickly go awry however, when he is forced to take part in a bold heist at a famous London auction house.
It’s tempting for a young student to be surrounded by luxury cars and arrogant people, and before he knows it, he’s swept up in a plot that’s far bigger than he ever imagined, taking him on a journey across London to escape the web’s been caught in, and perhaps, prove his innocence.
Decisions range from the mundane to life-changing, and with every choice we make, we watch it being executed ‘real-time’ in front of us. We hear sniggers from the audience with each scene, both amused and immersed in this experience. For myself, I found this a surprisingly smooth experience, with the film being very receptive to the choices we made, thanks to the smooth transitions between ‘decision-making phases’ and the film itself.
Going forward, it’s not long before we learn that our primary mission is to get Matt to recover a priceless family heirloom from an auction house, and for us to take part in the bidding. It’s made clear how our decision matters, and the need to keep making choices keeps us on our toes, and makes us feel like a part of the team, and a part of the heist experience.
Seeing how it all comes together provokes us to think about our own decisions, and the process behind making them, and how we watch the consequences playing out before us. While it is a novel idea, we do wonder however, if this is a film that works only during the reduced seating of the COVID-19 period. If and when cinemas return to full capacity again, the mass handphone usage may serve more as hindrance and distraction from the immersion. Still, with a captivating enough storyline and smooth gameplay, for now, we were kept engaged throughout Late Shift, proof that gamification is more than just a gimmick, and capable of further enhancing the cinematic experience for audience members.
Late Shift plays at select Golden Village cinemas (GV Funan, GV Plaza and GV Suntec City).