Left Behind (2014)
Left Behind is the reboot of the 2000 film trilogy that starred Kirk Cameron. The film is based off of the first few chapters of the first novel.
Before I review this film I need to answer multiple questions that many people have.
Q: Is the Antichrist in this film?
A: No, this film takes place over the course of one day. The Antichrist does not appear until after the rapture and the filmmakers said that he would be in the sequels and actually the film is perfectly set up for the Antichrist to arrive right at the beginning of Left Behind 2.
Q: Does this film even mention Christ or God? I feel like it is a typical Hollywood film like Noah.
A: No, this film is nothing like Noah. Left Behind actually makes sure the audience knows what happened to the missing people. God is talked about so no need to fear.
Q: Why is Nicolas Cage in this? Is he even Christian?
A: I asked Jerry B. Jenkins (author of the novels) about this myself and he replied…
“I’m thrilled that such a talented actor is playing the role. Plus, Nicolas told me he was honored to work with my writing, so I know he has read at least the first book and has been exposed to a clear presentation of the gospel. I don’t know about his personal faith, but I know he is very much into New Age stuff. As a Coppola (Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew) I assume he was raised Catholic and has some knowledge of biblical things. I assume you know that the actor who played Rayford in the first three Left Behind videos didn’t profess any faith either. In fact, I think only three of the actors in those productions were professed believers.”
With that out of the way, let me review Left Behind. I read all 16 novels between January and April this year. Upon reading the series and loving it, despite its flaws, I rewatched the old films (circa 2000 – 2005 with Kirk Cameron). They were/are low budget cheesiness. I did some more research and found out that a reboot was happening and they actually had a decent budget this time (15-16 million) and were hiring good actors. I was very perplexed by the choice of Nicolas Cage but eventually got over it. Needless to say, I was very hyped for this film and saw it at the first available public showing. Here is a quick, spoiler free, synopsis of the plot. Rayford Steele is a commercial pilot who has grown apart from his wife Irene due to her obsession (in his mind) for God. Chloe and Raymie Steele are his kids and while Chloe is college student who is in the same boat as her dad, Raymie is just a young boy (around 10 or 11) who doesn’t really know what the family feud is about. Chloe flies in for her dads birthday only to find out that he is working and will not be home. I will leave it there as I don’t want to spoil anything.
The best way to tackle this review, in my mind, is to go over the positives and then cover the negatives. First, what was done correctly? Pretty much the entire second half of the film was exactly what I expected. Chaos, people going crazy, wondering what the heck is going on, etc etc. The rapture scene was one hundred percent unexpected and gave me goosebumps. I already knew it had to happen but man… No man knows the hour is right as even I didn’t know it would happen when it happened. It had me saying “holy cow, there is no way”. Heck, I have goosebumps again just writing about it. The casting choices for Chloe Steele (Cassi Thomson) and Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray) were good picks as they did a great job with what they were given. At first I didn’t care much for Buck but once him and Chloe had their first real talk at the airport, I saw why these two were picked. The chemistry was there and their conversation felt real. This was welcome after the opening scene but, that is for the next paragraph. The other cast member who I thought did a good job was Melvin Weir (Martin Klebba). He brought a much needed comic relief to some parts and reacted exactly as I expected many would. I must note a few changes for anyone who read the novels. This movie only covers the first couple chapters and if you read the book then you know that not much else happened besides the rapture in the first few chapters. Creative liberties were taken and despite loving the source material, I was pretty much ok with what they did. Characters were the same as in the novels but they made the entire rapture and its after effects much better than what was in the first few chapters of the novel. The ending left the door open to the planned sequels and I am ready for them to get out into the world and see how this event has affected everything. From what I have researched, all of the cast members signed on for two sequels besides Nicolas Cage. I guess he is waiting to see how this turns out? Also, instead of being based in Chicago, everyone is from New York. This makes sense since more happened in New York in the novels than Chicago and it made the movie a bit more streamlined.
On to the negative parts. This move had a handful of things that needed to be changed. I feel as if a recut or directors cut version of this film would do wonders. Here is why. The soundtrack is terrible. From the opening credits to the closing, the music selection was just wrong. Here we have an action/disaster movie and the music just did not fit. This was not noticeable after the rapture took place, as the soundtrack actually fit and did not stand out, but before… it would have been better with no music whatsoever. The opening scene in the airport between Buck and the lady asking him if he reads the bible was simply a terrible foot to get off on. I immediately started thinking that the cheesiness was going to be laid on thick throughout the film. It was bad. Luckily after that miscue, the film picks itself up and brushes the cheesiness off and moves on. Hattie Durham (Nicky Whelan) was just whatever in my opinion. I guess now that I think about it. No one really liked Hattie in the novels so maybe Nicky Whelan nailed it? A few of the nameless people on the plane were clearly extras but they usually did not have more than a line of dialogue. When Left Behind kept the focus on Chloe, Rayford, or Buck then the film excelled. Jordin Sparks is also here as the wife of the starting QB for the New York Jets (not Geno Smith for those of you who follow the NFL) and does a decent job. Whenever you see this film then come back to this review so you can understand when I mean when I say, I wish she had done it. It would of added a dark but very real layer to the film. Last but not least Nicolas Cage. Did he do a good job? Eh… Did he do a “NOT THE BEES” job? Not even close. He was somewhere in the middle and I believe it was due to eighty percent of his scenes being in the cock pit and not really interacting with anyone outside of the supporting cast visiting the cabin. I have seen him do better but overall he gets a five out of ten. Nothing terrible but I expected more from the actor. Lastly, it seemed like after all the initial chaos that by the end of the day, the panic and torment everyone was experiencing was over for the most part. Also traffic cleared up pretty quick for New York. This was a little odd to me because I am placing myself in the films universe and imagining that there should be wrecked cars everywhere and a lot more stuff going on than what is seen. This is mostly overshadowed by what is going on in the plane so you may not even notice.
The action was a mix of good and bad. Good parts were anything without CGI as having driverless cars crashing through malls, planes crash landing in parking lots, and pretty much anything else that was action but not CGI was well done. The CGI on the other hand was decent but it felt circa 2004ish rather than 2014. The plane that Rayford was flying looked fine and that was probably due to the mostly night time shots however, anything in the daylight was obvious. Thankfully, there was only a couple of moments where the CGI was noticeably bad and I believe that once again, a directors cut could fix this.
Lastly, how was God/Jesus brought into the film? Do not fret fellow Christians! God is talked about and is never cryptically referred to like in Noah. Outside of the opening scene of the film with Buck and the random bible beater woman, God is talked about but the word rapture was never said. This reminded me of zombie movies where no one says zombie.
Overall, this is a solid movie that with a few corrections can easily make it better. The potential is there for an even better Left Behind 2 and 3. In fact, I look forward to them. However, with the rapture out of the way I hope they stick a little closer to the novels and lengthen the film. Left Behind runs for a solid hour and forty five minutes. For any proper sequel they will need to have at least two hours to really do everything necessary from the novels. Who do I recommend this to? All adults and kids who are at least ten. Despite the action sequences and people missing, there is not anything that is questionable for your child. I would probably not bring any kid under ten due to one woman doing drugs (you don’t see it happen but it is obvious for adults) and suicide being contemplated by many. People are shown dead but, nothing is graphic. Is this going to convert lots of people? I can’t promise that. But, it will start conversations and get the ball rolling.
God is not forgotten.
Cassi Thomson and Chad Michael Murray did a great job and have good chemistry. Need more scenes with them together in the sequels.
Rapture scene was pure gold.
Action was good when not using CGI.
People reacted realistically initially.
Nicolas Cage was average.
Soundtrack was terrible throughout the first half of the film.
Opening scene started the film off on the wrong foot.
CGI is whatever and should be used less in the future unless a larger budget is acquired.
Is it bad that I am glad Irene Steele was raptured so I don't have to listen to her cheesiness anymore?