Watching the 2014 version of Left Behind was one of those epiphany moments where a movie is bad (not a fun bad, just bad) but why were we expecting anything different? A reboot of a humorless Christian franchise trying its little, judgmental heart out to save our doomed, sinful souls from the definitely-going-to-happen-any-day-now Biblical Rapture doesn’t exactly sound like a laugh riot. The inclusion of human enigma Nicolas Cage gave the series the promise of campy appeal, but he was in quick-paycheck mode and did little for the film’s lifeless, dour tone. Similarly, any weird potential in the idea of a worldwide, supernatural, people-erasing event is severely undercut by the film being the first in a planned series and the budgetary decision of bottling most of the action on a single airplane. Instead of the amused chuckling we naively expected, we met most of the film with irritated silence.
It’s a little unfair to beat up on a film based on our off-base expectations, though, so instead of giving Left Behind a negative review, we decided to catalog the things we actually liked about the movie. It took some careful deliberation but between the two of us we came up with an even dozen nice (or at least entertaining) things to say about Left Behind.
1. Although the movie doesn’t include any patented Nic Cage Freak-Outs™, it does feature Cage delivering the following line to his Atheist daughter: “If your mother was going to leave me for another man, it might as well have been Jesus.” A calm, collected Cage isn’t exactly the shot in the arm this movie needed, but we really liked that line.
2. Cage has exactly one more entertaining moment later in the film. As the passengers on the airplane he’s piloting are freaking out, confused about their Raptured loved ones, he utilizes his National Treasure puzzle-solving skills and gets to the bottom of what’s going on. The clues that lead him to discovering the phenomenon’s Biblical source: one missing passenger’s watch reads “John 3:16” and another’s datebook has a scheduled Bible study penciled in.
3. The Rapture itself was kind of interesting (even if by default), especially the image of disappeared children’s clothes falling to the floor while the balloons they were holding float toward the heavens.
4. We may have unfairly described the film as humorless above. It does attempt an embarrassing, mildly reprehensible line of comic relief involving an angry dwarf character. Most of the gags are misfires politically & morally, but there is one that is just genuine, wholesome fun. As the passengers are trying to figure out if the Raptured have actually disappeared or are just invisible, the dwarf tries to give one of the missing a wet willy. It’s pretty funny.
5. Speaking of morally reprehensible, the same dwarf character mentioned above is unceremoniously tossed out of the airplane once it lands by a Muslim man he’d been bickering with for most of the runtime. It’s a gag that’s transgressive in its complete disregard for decency, but it’s still entertaining in its own deplorable way.
6. Nic Cage’s daughter is just as frustrated with her mother’s newfound Christian faith as Cage is. When she discovers that her mother’s warnings of The Rapture have come true she angrily smashes the disappeared woman’s Bible through window glass. It’s a great image & one that would befit the most melodramatic Lifetime Movie blowup.
7. Speaking of Nic Cage’s daughter, she looks eerily similar to his mistress in some ways. It’s cool that he has a type.
8. Cage’s totally happy, not at all depressing family unit is only shown in one place in a single image: a hilariously awkward family portrait that makes two separate appearances in the film. The shoddy Photoshop on the picture is an embarrassment, Cage himself looking like he was airbrushed into the picture. It’s one of the film’s only interesting images because it’s so jarringly fabricated and it’s totally bizarre that they felt the need to feature it twice.
9. In yet another bizarrely fake image, there’s a CGI plane that’s crash-landing looks like it was borrowed from a PowerPoint presentation. It’s ridiculous.
10. Just in case you don’t know how to feel at any point during the movie’s consistently over-sentimental, maudlin proceedings there’s an oppressive, violin-heavy soundtrack there to remind you how to feel at every moment. It would be annoying if it weren’t so over-the-top in its persistence.
11. The same way the violins never let you forget exactly how to feel, there’s a character that contantly reminds everyone around him that he’s an “investigative journalist”, which would be a ludicrous, ill-advised thing for a real-life investigative journalist to do, but it is pretty funny in this context.
12. All joking & sarcastic derision aside, there are a couple decent shots in the film. Exactly a couple. One image of Cage’s daughter backing up a truck & one of her running across a bridge at night felt like glimpses into a drastically different, frankly much better film. Combined together, they amount to maybe 5 seconds of footage, but they do look fairly nice in comparison to the artistic void that surrounds them. As with every other item on this list, we were deeply grateful for the fleeting flashes of vitality in a movie that was severely lacking both in life and personality.
-James Cohn & Brandon Ledet