The 2014 version of “Left Behind” received quite the critical smackdowm upon its release, and that made me all the more interested in seeing it. How many times do you get the opportunity to say that you were one of the handful people who got to see such a god awful motion picture on the big screen that notoriously flopped at the box office during its incredibly short time in theaters? There were a few people who proudly wore t-shirts signifying that they saw “Gigli” when it opened in theaters everywhere before it disappeared just as quickly.
“Left Behind” looks like one of those so bad it’s good movies, but even on that level it is a complete failure. This cinematic version of the best-selling novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins is every bit as hideous as its reputation suggests. The acting is amazingly bland and lifeless, the dialogue is unforgivingly bad, and the direction is beyond incompetent. Upon coming out of this movie, one has to wonder if its best sequences were all left behind on the cutting room floor be it on purpose or by accident.
The movie opens on Chloe Steele (Cassi Thomson) arriving home from college to surprise her father, airline pilot Rayford Steele (Nicolas Cage), for his birthday. Rayford, however, is already set to pilot a flight to London and cannot make it. Also, his marriage to his wife Irene (Lea Thompson) is on the fritz as she has since become a devout Christian, something that drives him and Chloe up the wall. He also has his eye on one of his infinitely beautiful flight attendants to the point where he doesn’t hesitate to leave his wedding ring in the glove compartment of his car.
Anyway, the family members go their separate ways to do their thing, but then people suddenly vanish into thin air without any explanation, and the world suddenly and quickly descends into utter chaos. Their clothes and belongings are left behind, but their bodies have apparently disappeared and don’t look to reappear anytime soon. It turns out that the end is much nearer than the non-believers ever bothered to realize, and those who believe in Jesus are now under his (or her) protection. As for those back on earth, they are forced to prepare for the rapture which is certain to kill them off at some point in the not too distant future.
“Left Behind” is actually a remake of the 2000 film which starred Kirk Cameron and which also received largely negative reviews upon its release. In a time where every other movie is being remade, this looked like the rare remake that could have easily improved upon the original, but no such luck. For all we know, this remake is even worse than its predecessor, and that is like pouring salt in an already gaping wound.
Where do we start with a god awful movie like this? Well, let’s take into account that the story lacks much in the way of drama. Those characters who didn’t go up to heaven are basically condemned to a hellish existence, so where’s the drama? As for the drama up in the sky, the characters stuck in the airplane are forced to act stupidly and utter dialogue so silly and inane that it makes the screenplays of the “Star Wars” prequels sound like they were written by Aaron Sorkin.
The saddest thing about “Left Behind” is watching Nicolas Cage as he gives one of the worst performances of his long career. Granted, Cage has done more bad movies than good ones these past few years, but even he can sometimes elevate them to something that is at the very least entertaining. But hear he looks like he is about to fall into a coma like Ben Carson threatens to at any second as he appears bereft of passion and meaning. What made Cage decide to do this movie anyway? He can underplay a role to great effect in movies like “Joe,” but here he only succeeds in making a boring movie all the more infinitely sleep-inducing.
The director of this misbegotten disaster is Vic Armstrong who is said to be the world’s most prolific stunt double in movies. He doubled for Harrison Ford in the first three “Indiana Jones” movies, Timothy Dalton in “Flash Gordon” and George Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Whatever lessons he gleaned from the directors he worked with on those projects did not translate to this project. He should be forgiven for the lousy special effects as “Left Behind” had a budget of $16 million which, for a movie like this, is not nearly enough to work with, but there is little in the way of forgiveness available to him here. His direction is so amateurish that it’s a wonder how he got the directing job at all.
There’s only so much time one can waste on a movie like “Left Behind” because there are hundreds upon hundreds of movies out there which are so much better than it. This movie ends on a note of seeming uncertainty as the apocalypse has only begun, but Cage stares at it so blankly as if to say he won’t be around for the sequel (assuming there will ever be one). It’s depressing to see a number of careers hit rock bottom with this movie, but that’s exactly what happens here as movies don’t get much worse than this.
It is nice to see Lea Thompson here as she has always proved to be a very appealing presence in each project she’s in. Too bad she disappears from this one way too soon.