"Left Behind" may be the most boring post-apocalyptic movie ever made. Only the irritatingly preachy messages delivered by wooden characters threaten to detract from the glacial speed with which the plot develops.
Two things happen in the movie: The long awaited Rapture beams the saved up to heaven and Pilot Rayford Steele (Nicholas Cage) successfully lands a crippled commercial airliner. Unfortunately, we do not get to actually see the Rapture occur. Apparently the film's budget would not allow for extensive special effects or miracles. But we know that the saved have left, because they disappear, leaving all of their clothes behind. Should the film be X-Rated? Will it relieve our over-crowded highways? More importantly, will it finally help Nick Cage to pay off his huge debts?
In more successful days, Cage's acting skills won him an Oscar for "Leaving Las Vegas." Now it seems that he's the one "Left Behind." Trapped in a film assembled by religious fanatics and acted largely by amateurs, Cage is paying his debt to society ... his debt for over the top spending on expensive real estate and over the top acting in other cheap thrillers.
"Left Behind" is not a thriller. It does, however, give every appearance of being inexpensive. Disaster movies depend on large scale destruction and carnage. Instead, we get a slim sampling of mishap: a bus crash here, limited pyrotechnics there. And a few dozen extras, running about in obvious confusion is no substitute for extensive CGI mayhem.
Dramatic tension fares no better. We know that Cage will successfully land his plane and be reunited with his daughter. Leaden foreshadowing indicates who the fortunate rapturees will be. Besides Cage, the other all too earnest if hardly plausible principals do their strained best to lift this deadweight. Chad Michael Murray (from television's "One Tree Hill") plays investigative journalist Cameron "Buck" Williams to whom it falls to document events. Greg Palast and Matt Taibbi would be green with envy at "Buck"s" fame ... everybody knows him. Clearly this is a better world what with such deference to investigative reporters! Cassi Thomson (from "Big Love" and "Cop Dog") is Cage's hard working daughter who helps save the day if not any souls.
Flawed as the film is, the premise is even more disturbing. The saved in this post-apocalyptic world are only those who believe in Evangelical Christianity. The film is the latest to be based on the best-selling "Left Behind" novels written between 1995 and 2007 by Evangelical Christian minister Tim LaHaye and children's adventure and romance novelist Jerry B. Jenkins. They published 16 apocalyptic novels in their series which sold over 65 million copies.
LaHaye and Jenkins are dedicated right wingers who constantly seek to blame what they see as social and moral breakdown on minority groups and those who don't share their religious beliefs. LaHaye argues that liberal groups, including NAACP, ACLU, Planned Parenthood and NOW have joined with Ivy League colleges to destroy the United States and turn it into an amoral, humanist nation. He particularly castigates gays in his book "The Unhappy Gay: What Everyone Should Know About Homosexuality", attributing to them 16 pernicious traits. Despite also attacking other religions, including Catholicism, LaHaye has spoken at Reverend Sun Myung Moon's "Council for Religious Freedom" and raised funds from the Moonies. (Rolling Stone, 1/28/2004).
With such beliefs, it would seem that a more compelling and disturbing film could easily have been made. Perhaps in trying to sell their worldview, LaHaye and Jenkins decided that some of their more disturbing views were better left behind.