If you’re going to the theater searching for a thrilling, mind-numbingly awe inspiring film, make sure to pass up Vic Armstrong’s film adaptation of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian-apocalyptic novel Left Behind.
Though Armstrong snagged big-name actor Nicholas Cage to play the role of the lying, cheating, poor-excuse-of-a-father (as well as a non-believer), the poor acting and overall cheesy-ness of the film made my duration in the theater chair seem eternal.
The plot begins with college student Chloe Steele (played by Cassi Thomson) coming home to surprise her father, Raymond Steele (Nicholas Cage) for his birthday. Upon her arrival at the airport, she finds out that her father, who is a pilot, has been called into work and will not be home for the weekend. Secretly, he has planned to spend his birthday in London with the predictably sleazy, blonde, young and curvy flight attendant who—you guessed it— is also a non-believer.
In response to her father’s decision to go into work, Chloe blames her “crazy” mother, Irene (played by Lea Thompson), for pushing the family apart because of her newly adopted religiousness, and storms out of the house with her little brother.
Chloe takes her brother to the mall while her father flies over the Atlantic on his way to London. As Chloe is giving her little brother a hug, he instantly vanishes out of her arms, leaving nothing behind but the clothes he was wearing. Chloe searches for her brother in a panic, and comes to realize he is not the only missing person. She returns home to find her mother’s jewelry at the bottom of the shower—still running.
While the set-up for the movie seemed somewhat promising at the start, the portrayal of the characters that are “left behind” is somewhat aggravating and offensive. Any mention of religion around an atheist character is met with harsh, unrealistic accusations of idiocy and lunacy. Just so you know, viewers, us atheists aren’t all that monstrous.
It felt as though the left-behinders were too juxtaposed with the virtuous, loving, understanding and mild characters that were spared in the Rapture. Irene’s character seemed too sweet and agreeable to be true.
She quietly accepts Chloe’s berating of her religiousness without a fuss, assuming the role of the misunderstood do-gooder that we obviously know will have a ticket to the Rapture. This, compared with Raymond, who lies to his wife, child and soon-to-be mistress, seems to divide the “good and righteous” from the “evil” in a way that is so black and white, it’s unbelievable.
After the Rapture, the rest of the movie centers on the landing of Raymond’s plane, which, in predictable fashion, becomes damaged in a collision with a plane flying without a pilot and is losing fuel at a rate that will just barely get the plane safely back to the airport. Instead of focusing on what I believe was the intent of the movie— the panic of being one of those that is “left behind” in the crisis— the plot turns into more of an action film, filled with flames and explosions and super-speed, near-death plane landings.
I was really disappointed in this movie because, although I may not be a choice audience member or critic for this particular kind of film, I do know that the message Left Behind was trying to send could have been done in a much more effective, less cheesy and less offensive way.
I wanted to leave the movie saying, “Wow, I really wouldn’t want to be one of those people who had to lose their loved ones and face the apocalypse,” not, “Wow, that plane landing was almost as ridiculous as Nicholas Cage’s lackluster acting and the sentimental elevator music accompanying it.”
All in all, I was vastly underwhelmed with this film. What could have been a powerful message to the public was botched by an uninteresting and predictable script that failed to reflect on the true message of the film, and instead focused on the action of the story rather than the realization that those who were left behind needed to find a way to change their ways and achieve their salvation. If you ask me, save yourself. Don’t spend the money for a ticket.