2014, PG-13, 110 min. Directed by Vic Armstrong. Starring Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thomson, Lea Thompson, Nicky Whelan, Martin Klebba, Jordin Sparks, William Ragsdale.
REVIEWED By William Goss, Fri., Oct. 10, 2014
Whether they know it or not, most movie lovers are probably big fans of Vic Armstrong’s work. As Harrison Ford’s stunt double during the original Indiana Jones trilogy and a second-unit director on action films ranging from Total Recall to Thor, the man is an unsung Hollywood legend responsible for many an edge-of-your-seat moment.
Sadly, those moments are few and far between in Left Behind, Armstrong’s first proper directorial effort since 1993’s Army of One and a chintzy re-adaptation of 2000’s Kirk Cameron snoozer based on the same series of hugely popular Christian novels. In fact, despite a larger budget and the presence of at least one honest-to-goodness movie star, Nicolas Cage, this may be one of the most inept films to ever see a wide theatrical release courtesy of pay-for-play distributor Freestyle Releasing (God’s Not Dead, The Identical).
Cage stars as Rayford Steele, a philandering airline pilot who has grown estranged from both his born-again wife (Thompson, putting in maybe a day’s work) and his resentful daughter, Chloe (Thomson, no relation). Despite Chloe coming home for his birthday, Dad’s got a trans-Atlantic flight to catch, and thus, they’re left to find one another when the sudden onset of the Rapture – causing all good Christians to vanish from this world before the End Times commence – leaves him stranded in the air and her panicked on the ground.
For a disappointingly subdued Cage, it means finding himself alone at the controls of a hackneyed doomed-airliner TV movie with a Benetton-worthy assortment of characters: the worried single mom, the relapsed junkie, the not-a-terrorist Muslim, the corporate fat cat, the angry dwarf, and a hunky journalist (Murray) whose chance meeting with Chloe at the terminal already has him determined to return to his sudden true love. For teary-eyed Thomson, it means enduring lousy digital effects, terrible child performances, bad jump scares, largely unconvincing extras, and a hilariously overwrought musical score that can never quite decide which kind of movie it actually belongs to.
Religious dramas have a track record of prioritizing wholesome values at the cost of production values, and while Left Behind is mostly too preoccupied with being a hoary thriller to preach to the converted, it’s a thoroughly laughable attempt to marry bombast with sermonizing. New Orleans is a less-than-convincing substitute for New York, Cage and Thompson’s stiff performances only look more professional in contrast to the amateur hour surrounding them, and the promise of a continued adventure feels akin to a threat after two long hours of melodrama. If a sequel to this reboot actually gets made, then God help us.