Based on the best-selling novel by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind is a disaster movie, of sorts, but one where the cause of all the mayhem is the ‘main man’ himself, namely God. No, really…
Hollywood A-lister, Nicolas Cage, slums it here as veteran airline pilot Ray Steele who finds himself, and his passengers, in great danger when all of a sudden various people start to disappear into thin air, leaving just crumpled piles of clothes behind. The disappeared include his co-pilot, one of the air-hostesses, and several passengers. And it’s not just on the plane that weird things are happening, for all over the world people are vanishing, leaving behind confusion and chaos as the ‘survivors’ struggle to come to terms with what is happening around them. This includes Ray’s terrified daughter (played well by Cassi Thompson) who has to brave the bedlam of the city streets in search of her lost brother and mother.
And because so many people are disappearing, those left (behind) are struggling to continue services as usual, including airports, which means poor Ray and his passengers are running out of fuel with nowhere to land safely. Can his gutsy daughter come to the rescue and save the day? I’ll let you find out for yourselves, but suffice to say it’s a fairly entertaining ride, albeit in an overly preachy, fairly low-rent kind of way.
Your enjoyment of Left Behind will depend on your tolerance for overly religious tales where the God-fearing ‘good’ people are saved from themselves by the hand of ‘his mightiness’ and the rest of the population can basically go to hell. There’s nothing PC about this film, full, as it is, with walking clichés and bland character stereotypes that enable one to quickly gauge as to who might make it to the final credits, or not. Put it this way, if you’re a kid or believe in God, you’re going to live on in Heaven, but if not you’re stuffed, or at least that’s what the writers of this bit of gospel drumming sci-fi fluff want us to believe.
Having said that, as with most ‘disaster’ movies, and I use that word advisedly here, there’s still lots to enjoy once the initial, obligatory first act is over, during which various oddball characters are set up in order for us to take a bet on who makes it to the end credits or not. According to the writers of this tosh, if you’re a hard-headed businessman, a Muslim, an adulterer, a non-believer or even a grumpy dwarf you’re not welcome in the Lord’s house in the big-sky! Even a priest of damaged faith is refused admittance into heaven, which leads to the rather funny line of one passenger saying to the priest: ‘Why should I listen to you – you didn’t even listen to you!’
Apart from the trashy script, probably Left Behind’s biggest failing though, is its rather soap-opera-ish nature. Some of the set-pieces, where planes fall out of the sky and riots take place on land, are fairly well done, but it still has the feel of a church-funded TV movie of the week, with an extra side order of clichés! At times it’s all a bit too mawkish for its own good, and although it rather amused/horrified me in equal measure it felt like a good idea (if you like apocalyptic tales) ruined by too much ‘the end is nigh’ navel-gazing.
I get the feeling that this is supposed to be the first in a series of interconnected stories; if so I don’t think I’ll bother with the follow-ups. I kind of already know how it all ends (hint… not well).
Left Behind has recently been released on DVD by 101 Films. There were no extras on the disc.