Filmgoers unfamiliar with the fundamentalist Christian movement might not have heard of the 2001 TV movie series entitled Left Behind starring former teen idol and outspoken Christian Kirk Cameron. The 2014 big screen version is yet another adaptation of the original book series written by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. Left Behind has been described as an “interpretation of apocalyptic prophecy.” It dramatizes the dramatic event known in the Bible as the Rapture. According to Left Behind, this dark time begins when millions of true believers, babies, and young children (the exact cut off age isn’t made clear) instantly disappear off the face of the Earth supposedly enroute to heaven. The bodies of those chosen few simply evaporate, leaving behind their clothing and all of their earthly belongings.
This 2014 version of Left Behind stars Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, as well as Chad Michael Murray, Lea Thompson, Cassi Thomson, and American Idol alum Jordin Sparks. The supporting cast deliver awkward, amateurish, and uninspired performances all of which could be chalked up to inexperience and/or the overwhelming need for a pay cheque. Nicolas Cage’s presence in Left Behind, however, should serve as grounds for revoking his 1996 Best Lead Actor Oscar. As difficult as it is to believe that Cage actually signed on to star in this dreadful flick it’s even harder to witness his hopelessly flat and lackluster performance. The actor seems to sleepwalk his way through the entire narrative. Perhaps the fault lies in the hands of the film’s director Vic Armstrong who should’ve made sure that Cage remained awake while the camera was rolling.
Left Behind doesn’t waste any time before launching into a didactic treatise on the tenets of fundamentalist Christianity. During the film’s first sequence, for example, investigative journalist Cameron Williams (Murray) is confronted by a gung-ho stranger who proclaims that it’s a fallen world and despite the fact that, “God created it perfectly and we ruined it by the first sin.” This is followed up by lots of heavy handed dialogue about God and outspoken Christians who feel like it’s their calling to preach their fanciful religious beliefs to anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path.
Much of Left Behind takes place aboard a plane being piloted by Cage’s character Ray Steele. In order to illustrate the consequences of being a non believer the aircraft is populated by a virtual who’s who of sinners including a greedy businessman, a drug addict, a vain TV reporter, a Muslim, and last but not least an angry dwarf (no joke). Chaos ensues after a number of passengers and crew simply vanish into thin air. Cage’s character finds himself thrust into the role of reluctant hero as he struggles to safely land the plane and deliver his passengers back to New York City where they’ll come face to face with the devastation occurring in the wake of the Rapture.
Unfortunately there’s nothing even remotely redeeming about Left Behind. Its nonsensical narrative, stiff amateurish acting, and poor production values make it not only one of but perhaps THE worst film of the year. The only audiences who might be able to conjure up enough endurance to sit through this hellish hour and 48 minute cinematic sermon are either those who’ve already drank the Kool-Aid or viewers with so little cinematic knowledge that they wouldn’t know the difference between a quality film and an episode of Duck Dynasty. As a prophetic sign of the worst being yet to come it’s noteworthy to remember that Left Behind only covers Chapter One of the book series. What more can be said but, “the horror… the horror.”
Left Behind opened October 3 in theatres.