A film review by Craig J. Koban October 12, 2014



2014, PG, 105 mins.


Nicolas Cage as Rayford Steele  /  Lea Thompson as Irene Steele  /  Chad Michael Murray as Buck Williams  /  Nicky Whelan as Hattie Durham  /  Jordin Sparks as Shasta Carvell  /  Martin Klebba as Melvin Weir  /  Cassi Thompson as Chloe Steele

Directed by Vic Armstrong  /  Screenplay Paul Lalonde and John Patus

LEFT BEHIND is one of the funniest films that I’ve ever seen.  The fact that it’s not a comedy is ultimately telling.  

Only an omnipotent deity in the heavens above could explain how a film so inexcusably and laughably mediocre like this exists.  LEFT BEHIND is so monumentally ill conceived and amateurishly shot and acted that you’re left thinking that the makers behind the scenes had no real idea just how terrible their final product was going to be.  If Ed Wood Jr. were alive and well today and decided to make a Biblical propaganda film about the Rapture then LEFT BEHIND would be the end result.  Actually, that’s an insult to Wood’s films; they were at least enjoyably awful. 

I have nothing against films that mine the Bible for material and to preach a message.  Films like THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and BEN HUR still entertain me to this day.  But, dare I ask, what audience is LEFT BEHIND aiming for?  The easy answer would be die-hard Christian fundamentalists, but it’s really hard to see how the film’s shoddy acting, Dollar Store visual effects, and insipid writing would inspire anyone of deep faith.  The film is obviously not for agnostics or atheists, whom will spend most of their time during a screening mocking it with feverish delight.  Hell, I’m not sure that the film will even find an loyal audience or following for those that were fans of the original novel – that this film is partially based on – by Tim LaHave and Jerry B. Jenkins.  What we are left with are those that will seek out the film – like me – that wanted to see some inkling of an explanation (beyond a paycheck) as to why an Academy Award winning and nominated actor like Nicolas Cage would agree to be in such dreck.  Sheer morbid curiosity by yours truly gave way to depression: Cage clearly needed the money.  Seriously. 



The plot – if you can call it that – makes airline disaster spoofs like AIRPLANE look like sobering dramas by comparison.  The film opens with some awkwardly prolonged exposition and family melodrama as we are introduced to Chloe (Cassi Thomson), the agnostic daughter to her deeply religious mother (Lea Thompson, like Cage, obviously needing money), whom experienced a spiritual conversion during her time of family crisis.  Her husband, Rayford Steele (Cage), is an airline pilot that is surprised when Chloe has made a special trip home to visit him on his birthday.  Regrettably, he’s been called into work…or maybe he’s about to have a fling with a leggy stewardess (Nicky Whelan) after their flight lands in London.  Oh….the plot thickens! 

In her depression while suspecting her father of having an affair, Chloe gets chummy at JFK Airport with Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray), a famous TV investigative reporter that just happens to be boarding her father’s flight.  After the airplane departs and Chloe journeys back home to reunite herself with her mother and baby brother – BOOM! – the Rapture occurs.  Yes…that one….the one that Chloe’s mother has been trying to warn her about for quite some time.  God has apparently taken those of faith up into heaven and has left all others…behind…to deal with the coming of the Anti-Christ.  The abductees, if you can call them that, vanish into thin air, leaving everything behind, like clothes, hats, cell phones, etc..  Predictably, all hell breaks loose all over the planet, which leads to mass riots and looting.  Chloe has lost her mother and brother to the Rapture, but fears for what has happened to her dear old dad.  Well, he’s still in the thick of things, but when his co-pilot and many passengers have disappeared he has to pull out all the stops to land his plane safely. 

One of the most unintentionally chuckle inducing aspects of LEFT BEHIND is its borderline offensive portrayals of various characters in the film, especially on the plane.  One is a Muslim (Luis Da Silva Jr.) that everyone seems to think is responsible for the passengers’ disappearance, which is odd considering the sheer miraculous nature of it.  Then there’s a fidgety mother (Jordin Sparks) that thinks her husband has kidnapped her daughter.  Uh-huh.  A little person (Martin Klebba) is lazily thrown in for the purposes of comic relief, I guess, who has a hostile reaction to just about everyone looking at him at any waking moment.  Hell, even Chloe herself is a character that’s on moronic autopilot throughout the film.  Gee, I wonder if she’ll fully emerge as a non-believer to an enlightened God-trusting woman by the film’s end?  You don’t have to be the Almighty to accurately predict what happens in this film. 

Nicolas Cage.  Nic…Nic…Nic!  What is he doing in this film?  I have read of his real life financial woes in the past, but his paycheck couldn’t have been that hefty in this $15 million effort to convince him that it was worth it to lend his good name to the production.  I saw him in JOE earlier this year in a performance so raw and natural that I truly believed that he was on the road to resuscitating his career and reputation as one of our finest actors….then along comes LEFT BEHIND to kick my belief in him right in the gonads.  I would have forgiven Cage a tad if he just left himself run rampant in the film in one of those fanatically crazy, throw-caution-to-the-wind performances that could have been enjoyed on pure camp value alone.  Yet, Cage here is so quiet, mannered, laid back and ultimately comatose throughout LEFT BEHIND that he comes off as self-pitying throughout.  The actor has never looked more visibly miserable to be in a movie.  His inexcusable decision to be in LEFT BEHIND aside, I felt pity for him while watching him sleepwalk through scenes.  Hell, it made me depressed. 

Vic Armstrong - whom previously was a famous stuntman that doubled for, among other celebrities, Harrison Ford throughout his career - directed LEFT BEHIND without any filmmaking aptitude being demonstrated on screen.  Mournfully, nothing in in the film reinforces Armstrong as a filmmaker with a firm grasp on action, effects, editing, and performance nuance.  The film’s unprofessional production values aside (LEFT BEHIND barely looks like it’s ready for a TV broadcast) and sloppy-as-hell visual effects work (very few sequences involving the airplane are convincing at all), all Armstrong is left to handle is the underlining themes and story, but the narrative is so utterly lacking in subtlety and the film’s message is so browbeat over our heads that it verges of uproarious parody.  When the film builds to an absolutely ridiculous climax – showcasing the newly Bible-embracing Chloe driving things ranging from a motorcycle to a truck to a steam roller (don’t ask) to help assist her father with landing that plane - you kind of just want to slap yourself upside the head for even entering the cinema. 

LEFT BEHIND is technically a re-imagined version the 2000 Kirk Cameron film of the same name.  I never once thought that I’d live in a world where a crummy Kirk Cameron religious thriller would indeed be better than a remake of it staring Nicolas Cage.  Watching this new LEFT BEHIND made me pray for the end of days to occur while I was in the screening room.  This film is an equal opportunity offender: it’s an atrocious experience to endure for those of deeply held beliefs…and for those without them.   God help us all from this unholy disaster of a film.  If you’re out there…step in and stop the potential sequel, which is hinted at in the film’s closing moments.  

I hope He heard me.

  H O M E