Starring: Nicolas Cage, Lea Thomson, Cassi Thomson
Genre: Thriller/ Drama/ Nonsense
One day millions of people suddenly vanish at the same time with all their clothes and belongings remaining. With the world thrown into complete pandemonium, those that remain are left behind and forced to make sense of all the chaos, including airline pilot Rayford Steele (Cage) who is forced to deal with panicking and confused passengers as well as fly and land a plane without any communication to the ground.
It is often argued that all stories should follow the three act structure; well Left Behind follows that diligently:
Act 1: Clunky expositional dialogue to explain what is about to happen and ‘character development’ to explain why certain characters will or won’t be suddenly disappearing.
Act 2: The remaining characters sharing some seriously dull chinwag as they try to figure out what they have just witnessed intercut with Nicolas Cage’s daughter constantly running around New York.
Act 3: Airplane!
I have no idea how good the book is by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, and the fact it is a series which has had several editions feature on the New York Times bestseller list would supposedly suggest it is very successful and half decent, but the film is absolutely abysmal. The books apparently have a very religious stand point as Left Behind focuses on the rapture in which true believers are suddenly taken to heaven leaving behind those that do not believe to deal with the ensuing chaos. If you are religious, agnostic or atheist it does not matter one bit; Left Behind is quite simply indescribably bad, but also in some ways needs to be seen just to be believed.
I (and I am sure many others) only watched Left Behind because Nicolas Cage is in it and it is usually entertaining to see what hideous thing he is starring in, and I am sure he got paid a healthy sum, but even by his dismally low standards, Left Behind is appalling. Considering the cinematic sins he has committed, it is highly appropriate his character is not chosen to be taken to heaven.
There is most definitely potential in Left Behind; in the hands of a good filmmaker and writer there could certainly be some striking and powerful imagery produced or even maybe, if it had the budget, a Roland Emmerich style blockbuster with huge set pieces. With a budget of $16million (imdb), perhaps director Vic Armstrong could not afford big set pieces, but considering how appalling Paul Lalonde and John Patus’ script is it would have been impossible to make Left Behind any better than a hideous b movie.
The pacing, dialogue and characterisations just sap the life out of the film and make it incredibly boring and so bad that anything The Asylum or SyFy channel churn out looks like a masterpiece. The attempts at character development are embarrassing to watch and the supposed dramatic lines delivered by a Nic Cage on total autopilot (pun very much intended) only raise laughter.
After a dull first third that signposts to the audience just who is going to be ‘left behind’ and who isn’t so much it is beyond patronising there is then an even duller middle third that consists of failed attempts at tension and emotional engagement. It is in the film’s final third that Captain Cage has to land his plane that the film descends (that pun also intended) into hilarious farce.
It is at this point that Left Behind has to be seen to be believed; the constant obstacles that both Rayford Steele faces while flying the plane and his daughter faces on the ground are just a succession of gags that Zucker and Abrahams would be proud of. At so many points it is almost impossible to comprehend that Left Behind is not just some kind of parody! The fact everything is delivered completely straight faced only serves to make things funnier, but it is just almost impossible to comprehend that all involved with this film actually thought what they were making was genuinely tense drama. As the film reaches its conclusion it takes a deep breath and long hard moment of reflection just to comprehend what has been seen and just how deluded all involved with the making of some films are (I am sure Cage didn’t really care), but it is a sad fact that abominations like Left Behind will keep on getting released.
A film that is not only even worse than Cage’s usual dismal output, but also so bad it has to be a parody; two hideously dull first two thirds are followed by an unbelievably farcical final third that admittedly has to be seen to be believed. Left Behind is a cinematic detritus.