30th Dec2014

‘Left Behind’ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Cassi Thomson, Chad Michael Murray, Lea Thompson, Jordin Sparks, Nicky Whelan, Quinton Aaron, Martin Klebba, William Ragsdale, Georgina Rawlings, Stephanie Honoré | Written by Paul LaLonde, John Patus | Directed by Vic Armstrong

left-behind-cage

I read the synopsis of Left Behind aloud to a friend and at more or less the same moment we both said, “…so it’s The Leftovers?” I haven’t even seen that television programme, but knew enough about it that I could recognise personal hero Nic Cage’s latest vehicle to more than slightly recall the set up. For the uninitiated, the film asks what would happen to everyone else if the righteous were suddenly beamed out of our plane of existence, presumably ascended up to heaven. I understand that The Leftovers doesn’t directly address what has happened to those that vanished but in Left Behind we’re given a pretty clear indication that the big man upstairs is responsible.

The main problem with the film is that it isn’t actually bothered about the existential or spiritual ramifications of the supernatural event that it portrays. Moreover, the majority of it is set on Cage’s aeroplane captain’s 747 (nb: may not actually be an actual 747, plane fans) and is as such a ‘how do we land an aeroplane in difficult circumstances?’ movie. Which is kind of disappointing. If the film-makers had wanted to make an air-disaster film, it seems weird to invoke a calamity of this kind without really exploring it. It’s like if Snakes on a Plane had had a boa constrictor pop out and eat the pilot apropos of nothing and then no other character felt compelled to question how the snake got there in the first place or even mention snakes again, but less funny than that. I’m exaggerating a little, but not by much.

A lack of interest in its own plot isn’t the only issue the film has. It paints its characters with such broad strokes and gives them such mind-crushingly on the nose dialogue, it’s hard to believe that the cast weren’t given the very earliest draft of the script, where all their lines are basic instructions of what is generally supposed to happen in each scene. Even speaking as an atheist, I was embarrassed at how the religious in the film were portrayed as annoying idiots and my fellow unbelievers were such smug, self-righteous pricks. Talk about a lack of depth. I was almost glad when they were left with holy egg on their faces as their church-going chums got raptured.

Whilst Cage phones it in in the air, his daughter, played by Cassi Thomson, mooches about her hometown as the world goes to shit and becomes increasingly depressed (as well you might). These bits kind of reminded me of the short-lived Lost wannabe, FlashForward, where everything went wrong when everyone in the whole world blacked out and saw the future. It felt to me that these bits of the film should have been the focal point and Nic Cage Being Upset on a Plane should have been some small part of the third act climax. Even then, it would take more than an encounter with a predictably unbelieving priest to make these bits interesting enough to make a film out of.

So let me just consult my film reviewer’s checklist here… Paul LaLonde and John Patus’s plot and script? Poor and draft-like. Acting? Uniformly cringeworthy. Vic Armstrong’s directing? Wholly unremarkable. Any saving graces whatsoever? Well, I am and always will be a Cage fan, but as such, you learn to take the rough with the very rough indeed. So whilst it’s always nice to see his wonderful horsey face and hear his monotonous drawl, it just made me wistful for his better work. Or even his average work. Hell, I’d have taken Season of the Witch over this rubbish.

Left Behind is released on DVD on January 5th, courtesy of 101 Films.

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