Left Behind

Year: 2014
Production Co: Stoney Creek Entertainment
Director: Vic Armstrong
Writer: Paul Lalonde/John Patus
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Nicky Whelan, Lea Thompson

You know your movie's in trouble when even the Kirk Cameron TV movie version from 10 years before gets a higher score of Rotten Tomatoes.

As we've seen time and time again, just because you're in the movie industry and have been on a lot of sets doesn't mean you can direct. In this case stuntman Vic Armstrong steps behind the camera and gets some of the worst reviews of any movie in years, famous only for how badly received it was like a minor modern Ishtar or Heaven's Gate.

It also further confirms that Nicolas Cage, whether he's a good actor or not (and he is in the right project, even though they've been getting fewer and further between) has no talent for picking material.

Based on Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkin's hit book series about the Biblical rapture and the people left behind to deal with the aftermath it's corny, sentimental, toneless, looks bad and combines bland characters with a script full of every eye-rolling moment you know from a million thrillers that came before it.

The conceit of the story is actually pretty interesting and cinematic. Instead of the usual zombie apocalypse, the world ends when God calls all the believers to heaven in a kind of sonic boom that crisscrosses the world and causes them all to simply vanish.

What would the people left behind do, what would they think, how would chaos reign? Unfortunately, credit for that idea and those questions goes to Jenkins and LaHaye's books. Armstrong, working from a script from two guys who've written a few straight to video adaptations of others versions of the series, seems to have lined up every movie cliché he could think of and pressed them into service.

It might be Left Behind was actually perfectly pitched for the huge, unsung Christian media content audience but people used to more traditional Hollywood thriller entertainment want and expect a completely different aesthetic. Or it could be just that it sucks hard.

Cage and his hair are an airline pilot who has to fly off to London and upset his adult daughter (some disposable TV actress bimbette) because she's flown in for his birthday and he can't stay. She meets a cute guy at the airport while waiting for him who happens to be on her Dad's flight (you know where that's going), and she's also upset at her estranged mother for turning into a religious loon.

While out taking her precocious and lovable little brother to the mall later on the unthinkable happens, and it's actually a pretty effective sequence as the believers disappear en masse from the Earth, the cars they were driving, planes they were flying and clothes they were wearing all dropping to the ground.

She has to try and get home where she hopes her brother has magically found his way back to despite disappearing while in her arms, but her mother's gone too, along with millions of others. The race is on to get in touch with dad and Mr Fashionable-Stubble in the air and hope she can help them land safely, all the while soul searching about what sort of God would do such a thing.

The premise and plot aren't the worst elements - they're actually perfectly serviceable for a Hollywood thriller. It's the execution that feels like something curiously stillborn and soul-destroying both at once. It might work on a pizza and beer night when you also watch The Room, but not much else.

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