Left Behind (2014)
Release Date: October 3rd, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Vic Armstrong Actors: Nicolas Cage, Nicky Whelan, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thomson, Martin Klebba, Lea Thompson, Lolo Jones
hile there are a few moments of genuine sincerity in “Left Behind,” it takes far too long to get serious – and then embarrassingly overcompensates to draw a larger audience. Rather than focusing primarily on the religious aspects, the film mishmashes multiple genres, desperately hoping for a wider appeal. The viewer is left with a jarring combination of melodrama and adventure-filled disaster flick, supplemented by a comically diverse array of characters, resembling a circus sideshow more than an earnest sampling of society. Given the extreme situations the protagonists are subjected to, the criticism “overdramatic” would normally be difficult to justify, yet “Left Behind” heaps on the sentiment even while inane action sequences cancel out any semblance of realism. The numerous plot holes, inconsistencies, and oftentimes downright idiotic dialogue certainly don’t help, nor do the cringingly abysmal soundtrack and the closing song that parallels the absurdity of “Deep Blue Sea’s” shark rap. It’s that bad.
Despite persistent warnings from her mother about The Rapture prophesied in the bible, Chloe Steele (Cassi Thomson) refuses to acknowledge the possibility of such an event. Her pilot father, Captain Ray Steele (Nicolas Cage) also dismisses the advice. But when millions of people across the globe begin vanishing mysteriously, the two must confront the truth. As Chloe searches the streets of New York for her missing brother, Ray must attempt to save the frantic passengers aboard Pan Con Flight 257, including investigative journalist Cameron “Buck” Williams (Chad Michael Murray), flight attendant Hattie Durham (Nicky Whelan), a panicked mother (Jordin Sparks), a conspiracy theorist (Han Soto), a paranoid drug addict (Georgina Rawlings), and many more.
“Left Behind” would be the perfect victim for “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” From the very first minutes, there’s something very off about this movie – starting with unfitting music that creeps up at all the wrong moments, never failing to intrude when it absolutely shouldn’t. Even more peculiar is the inclusion of horror movie jump scares (a woman rapidly pulling aside a curtain, an empty shower stall, and a loudly ringing phone), slow-motion jogs in front of exploding obstacles like something out of an action epic, and abundant comic relief. Perhaps more ludicrous still are the nearly nonstop bouts of unintentional humor.
Will Christian audiences be able to overlook severe technical shortcomings to enjoy the basic concept of the rapture? Bible verses are quoted during the first conversation, with the expected ideas of faith, disbelief, innocence, deliverance, and redemption brought to the forefront, but countless filmmaking errors become rapidly and abrasively evident. Major details and basic continuity issues are utterly ignored – to the point that one must wonder whether an editor was used at all. The interactions are hopelessly unnatural and poorly scripted (like a cross between a therapy session and improvisation); the acting is substandard, though highlighted by Cage’s ability to do nothing out of the ordinary and somehow still invoke smirks from his strange expressions and unnecessarily theatrical deliveries; characters bolt in and out of the airliner’s cockpit, while the captain himself has no problems mingling with the passengers; even though the craft is large, with multiple classes, there are only two stewardesses aboard; and, worst of all, the plane experiences sunrises and sunsets at times completely opposite of the people on the ground in New York, even though it’s never more than three hours away (at one point, the Pan Continental flight is a mere 30 minutes away from landing, yet the sun is rising in the clouds while Chloe runs through the streets just after the sun has set).
It takes a long time for anything to happen (at least a half-hour), and when it does, it looks and feels like something out of a low-budget made-for-television sci-fi episode. Everything about the project screams of hasty assemblage, a disregard for realistic environments, and extremely phony character designs. For what reason is an angry dwarf on the plane? Why is the flight attendant introduced with a slow, particularly erotic shot of supple legs and high heels? And why is the clearly religious Middle Eastern passenger left behind (isn’t any monotheistic god the same deity, even if called by a different name)? Can Chloe really drive an automatic car, a manual truck, a motorcycle, and a steamroller? Must the plane stop inches short of colliding with a tanker marked “flammable gas” like the climax of a James Bond action sequence? Is this a legitimate motion picture, or is it supposed to be one of the most riotous comedies of the year?
– The Massie Twins