Left Behind Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by 101 Films
Directed by Vic Armstrong
Written by Larry B. Jenkins, Tim LaHaye, Paul Lalonde and John Patus
2014, 110 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 5th January 2015
Nicolas Cage as Rayford Steele
Chad Michael Murray as Buck Williams
Lea Thompson as Irene Steele
Nicky Whelan as Hattie Durham
At last – a 101 Films release I can really get behind. In addition to a curious obsession with Batman, backwoods horror films and slasher villains who wear pig masks, one thing I really appreciate in my movie diet is the mighty Nicolas Cage. It doesn't matter whether he's yelling about bees, the alphabet or bunnies in boxes, I can watch and enjoy Nic Cage in any role. This is an actor I can even forgive remaking two of my favourite films (being The Wicker Man and Bad Lieutenant) and a homogenised superhero disappointment (being Ghost Rider, although its sequel is a different matter entirely). Don't get me wrong - this isn't hate-watching or hipster irony, either – I genuinely find Nicolas Cage to be that compelling as an actor and personality.
With that in mind, we turn to his latest effort – a Christian rapture movie remaking a 2001 film I was only barely familiar with in the first place (and a series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins), set on an aeroplane full of actors I am only barely familiar with. Cage plays airline pilot Rayford Steele, all set to fly his commercial jet to London, where he also intends to take in a U2 concert with his bit-on-the-side air hostess girlfriend. What nobody accounts for is the Rapture, in which people suddenly start disappearing, leaving only a pile of clothes and screaming bystanders in their wake. With his co-pilot gone, remaining passengers panicking and no word from air traffic control, Rayford must guide his plane to safety, keep his passengers alive and hopefully reunite with his estranged daughter back in America. No chance of that U2 concert, then. Not least because Bono will be the first to be Raptured when the time comes.
If Left Behind seems surprisingly high profile for a 101 Films release, that's likely because it makes a hard sell for mainstream audiences. It looks and sounds a lot like a TV movie, complete with terrible CGI and awful background music. It beats audiences over their heads in portraying its characters' sinful ways, while Cage is given relatively little to do in the cockpit of his plane. This may be one of his more restrained performances, but he's the only reason to bother with this film. There's no Antichrist, nor much time spent with anyone beyond the passengers on the plane. Ray's daughter gets a hefty amount of screen time, but never goes anywhere remotely interesting. Beyond a school bus crash and a small plane falling out of the sky, there's disappointingly little death and destruction in this disaster movie.
Instead, there's just a lot of posturing as the passengers inevitably turn on one another (but of course the Muslim dude is first to come under suspicion) the writing and direction leaving us in little doubt as to why our heroes might not be called up to Heaven. For Nic Cage, it's his callous rejection of his Bible-bashing wife and subsequent affair with an air hostess. For his daughter, it's presumably her rant at the start of the film where she rails against an airport God botherer and then, later, her own mother. The joke's on her and Raford, though: said mother gets the last laugh, being Raptured while her horrible husband and daughter remain stuck on Earth with the rest of the sinners.
Left Behind is disappointing on just about every level. As a disaster movie, there's not nearly enough spectacle or, you know, disaster. As a religious film, it lacks the conviction to even make a decent argument. Worst of all, it completely wastes Cage, leaving him to coast along on his plane while his obnoxious passengers do all the heavy lifting. This is the End? No, it doesn't even finish properly, left waiting for a sequel which will never come. Like the movie's sinful, rejected from Heaven, we're left sitting about twiddling our thumbs, wondering what exactly just happened.