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Left Behind

2014, Action/Mystery & thriller, 1h 51m

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Yea verily, like unto a plague of locusts, Left Behind hath begat a further scourge of devastation upon Nicolas Cage's once-proud filmography. Read critic reviews

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Left Behind

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A movie about the rapture starring Nicolas Cage should be wackier than “Left Behind.” It should have more smoldering panic bursting into full-blown freak-outs. It should have more passion, more intensity. It should have more bees.

Yes, Cage’s howl-inducing remake of ‘The Wicker Man” from 2006 actually feels like a legitimately good time compared to this dull groaner about the end times. It’s a remake too: a version of “Left Behind” starring Kirk Cameron quickly came and went from theaters in 2001, followed by a couple of straight-to-DVD sequels. All are based on the apocalyptic novels by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.

Christian readers and audiences are the base here, but it’s hard to imagine that this incarnation of the story will persuade anyone else to find the Lord unless they’re sitting in the theater praying for the dialogue or special effects to improve. This is essentially an “ Airport ” movie with an Evangelical spin, but it lacks the self-awareness to turn such a wild concept into a guilty pleasure.

Director Vic Armstrong , a longtime stuntman making only his second feature (and his first in a couple of decades), had a larger budget than the original's, and a more established star in the lead. None of that shows up on screen. The "big" set pieces look small and chintzy, the lighting is hard and flat, and the pacing is a monotonous back-and-forth between an airplane in the skies across the Atlantic and the chaos on the ground below.

But the more serious disappointment comes from Cage’s performance. As the awesomely named Rayford Steele, a philandering airline pilot who sees the light as the end is nigh, Cage needed to bring the wild-eyed, full-bore crazy. This has been his bread and butter of late, and it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable career shift. Instead, he’s oddly inert as the movie's voice of reason. Looking distractingly rubbery with a helmet of fake, dark hair, he seems to have been Photoshopped into the film. His presence is so strangely awkward and unconvincing.

Then again, the script from Paul Lalonde (who also produced the original “Left Behind” movies) and John Patus doesn’t exactly give him or the rest of the cast much to work with. It’s full of flat character types and blandly expository dialogue.  At the film’s start, Rayford’s daughter, Chloe (the perky Cassi Thomson), has come home from college for the weekend for her dad’s birthday. But Rayford got a last-minute assignment to fly from New York to London overnight, which will keep him away all that time. At least that’s what he told his wife Irene ( Lea Thompson ), who’s no fun anymore now that she’s found Jesus and is urging everyone around her to do the same. (The camera lingers as Irene tosses her gardening gloves on top of her ever-present Bible.) His real plan is to seduce a hot, blonde flight attendant ( Nicky Whelan ) over the weekend, beginning with prime tickets to see U2.

This is actually a vaguely intriguing premise: What happens to a marriage when one spouse undergoes a religious conversion and the other does not? It seems similar to what happens when one spouse gets sober and the other keeps drinking. What sort of wedge does this create? How does the family survive? But these aren’t the questions “Left Behind” cares to ponder. Armageddon is on the horizon.

Anyway, Chloe and her dad have a brief, stilted conversation in the airport waiting area between her arrival and his departure. Being the skeptic that she is, she also has a confrontation about religion with a woman who’s just bought a book about God at the bookstore. Chloe also finds time for a long chat with hunky, hotshot TV news correspondent Buck Williams, who happens to be a passenger on Rayford’s flight to London. ( Chad Michael Murray takes over the role Cameron played in the original. I’d say that’s an improvement.) There's a lot of sitting around and talking in “Left Behind.”

But then! Out of nowhere, God starts calling the pure of heart to heaven: children, mostly, but also people who have the words BIBLE STUDY written in their calendars in big capital letters. At first, no one realizes this is God’s doing. People just disappear, leaving their clothes and belongings in a pile where they once stood, including Chloe’s little brother and (of course) her mom.

Pandemonium ensues as millions go missing worldwide–or at least, implied pandemonium. This includes a school bus driving off an overpass and a small plane crashing into a shopping mall parking lot. There is zero finesse to these supposedly dramatic images. Mostly, Armstrong gives us a lot of people running around, flailing their hands in the air.

Meanwhile, up in the sky, folks start disappearing, too–including a flight attendant and Rayford’s second-in-command. (Guess this means God really is his co-pilot.) The barely sketched-out passengers in first class start panicking and bickering, including a Texas businessman, an Asian conspiracy theorist and a drugged-up heiress. Former “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks fares poorly as a paranoid, unstable mom who somehow smuggled a handgun on the plane. Worst of all is the consistent yammering between a kindly Muslim and a surly little person. The movie cuts to them repeatedly for comic relief, but it’s painfully unfunny every time.

“Left Behind” finally edges toward an enjoyable level of insanity as it reaches its conclusion. I wouldn’t dream of giving away the details–mysterious ways, and all–but I will say that it involves the petite Chloe driving a steamroller in the dead of night on a deserted stretch of highway that’s under construction.

Still, for a movie that spells everything out, it’s unclear why God chose this particular moment to inflict his wrath upon the masses. Was it because Rayford tried to forsake his wedding vows with a flirty flight attendant at a U2 show? Still, if you’re a true believer, it’s a beautiful day.

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who has written for RogerEbert.com since 2013. Before that, she was the film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series "Ebert Presents At the Movies" opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .

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Film credits.

Left Behind movie poster

Left Behind (2014)

Rated PG-13

105 minutes

Nicolas Cage as Rayford Steele

Lea Thompson as Irene Steele

Chad Michael Murray as Buck Williams

Nicky Whelan as Hattie Durham

Jordin Sparks as Shasta Carvell

Martin Klebba as Melvin Weir

Cassi Thompson as Chloe Steele

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‘Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist’ Review: Kevin Sorbo Steps Into Nicolas Cage’s Shoes for Sequel, After Rapture of Previous Movie’s Entire Cast

The latest installment in the rapture franchise provides efficient filmmaking at times, but doesn't offer much movie rapture on the way to an altar-call epilogue.

By Chris Willman

Chris Willman

Senior Music Writer and Chief Music Critic

left behind rise of the antichrist film movie review rapture

If you see just one thriller this year in which a climactic car chase is followed by the director-star breaking character to deliver a five-minute sermon straight into the camera — followed by three more minutes of Mike Huckabee leading viewers in prayer to accept Jesus into their hearts, before the end credits roll — then make it “ Left Behind : Rise of the Antichrist,” the latest in a series of apocalyptic films based on the bestselling Christian book series.

Midway through “Rise of the Antichrist,” Sorbo’s Steele, a non-believer who’s finally starting to see the light, consults with pastor Bruce Barnes (Charles Andrew Payne) about a biblical prophecy that is about to come true, in the version of “pre-trib,” premillennial theology that first grew in popularity among many Christians in the 20th century. On a whiteboard, the minister — who got left behind because he was, at the time, a phony believer — addresses a prophetic question that the filmmakers consider important: whether the clock on the seven-year Great Tribulation starts with the Rapture, or whether it really won’t commence until a great temple is rebuilt on the Temple Dome in Jerusalem. Eschatalogically inquiring minds want to know.

This exact schedule of the protracted apocalypse isn’t really a major plot point, but it does get you thinking more about timelines, not just for the End Times but for film productions. Like: where in the heck are we in the chronology of “Left Behind” movies? Kirk Cameron starred in the first three films, starting in 2000 and ending with 2005’s “Left Behind: World at War,” before producer/co-writer Paul Lalonde, the only constant in all of the productions, started afresh with the 2014 remake of the original, starring Cage. (In between, there was a little-noticed 2016 spinoff, “Left Behind: Next Generation,” based on the 40 “Left Behind: The Kids” books.) The new sequel starts off six months after the events portrayed in the reboot, albeit with not a single cast member returning from the previous film.

In real life, Sorbo is a polarizing enough personality that there could be a few non-evangelicals sneaking into showings for the purpose of a hate-watching. (The actor is so dedicated to right-wing trolling that, on release weekend, he made yet another sneering joke about the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi.) But anyone showing up in search of unintended laughs, because of his participation or because they have fond memories of snickering at no-budget Christ-sploitation movies like 1972’s “A Thief in the Night” at church camp, may be disappointed to find that “Rise of the Antichrist” rarely rises to pure camp.

It sports attractive lensing, dialogue that occasionally has a little snap to it, and even some decent directing of a few of the performances … including Sorbo’s own. That’s especially true in one nicely low-key, church-set scene where the actor performs alongside his real-life wife (Sam Sorbo, very good), both playing characters who lost their spouses in the rapture. His screen presence here has a naturalistic sweetness that feels at surprising odds with the snarky meanness of Sorbo’s social media persona as God’s Angry Man.

Much of the film is spent implicitly or explicitly painting the government’s and news media’s pandemic-era policies or reporting as hoaxes, establishing public fear or gullibility that provided a nice setup for Satan to really do his thing in end-times to come. (In this universe, there’s not even a Newsmax or an OAN left behind to question, let alone own, the libs.)

When the principal antagonist, in the form of Romanian big-wig Nicolae Carpathia (Bailey Chase), finally shows up for what amounts to only about 10 minutes of screen time, we know he’s the Antichrist because a thrilled television reporter tells viewers he’s getting the most enthusiastic greeting of anyone since Obama. (Boo, hiss.) Actually, Carpathia doesn’t appear to have any of the charisma expected of a guy who’s going to seduce the world; he resembles a much more hard-assed Ron DeSantis, crossed with a Bond villain.   

One of the most obvious problems with how thin “Rise of the Antichrist” is on any kind of movie rapturousness is how it denies audiences from spending very many minutes with the guy in the title, or even secondary baddy Jonathan Stonogal (Neal McDonough, playing the leader of the world’s biggest social network, in a production filmed well before such a figure became a major hero to conservatives). The belief, probably, was that moviegoers’ eternal souls will benefit more from hanging with its godlier characters. It’s always easier to scare audiences with the sight of empty suits, after all, than to face the frightening prospect of coming up with a budget for the Battle of Armegeddon.

Reviewed at AMC Santa Anita, Santa Anita, Calif., Jan. 28, 2023. Running time: 128 MIN.

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Den of Geek

Left Behind and the Worst Movie Break-In of All Time

Apocalyptic thriller Left Behind stars Nicolas Cage. Its reviews were not kind. And it features perhaps the worst movie break-in ever...

left behind cage movie review

Films are sometimes critically panned not because they’re inherently bad, but because of the larger story surrounding them. Consider Battlefield Earth , for example: a terrible movie, sure, but its production history (not to mention its connection to the Church of Scientology) made it an easy target.

Solar Crisis , released in 1990 was an equally awful movie–and with a budget of $55 million, just as financially calamitous–but  it was largely ignored while Battlefield Earth ‘s hideousness was trumpeted from the rooftops.

Which brings us to 2014’s Left Behind , a film so universally panned by critics that its Rotten Tomatoes score sits at an abysmal three percent. This places it a mere whisker above such legendarily bad films as Jaws: The Revenge and Mac and Me , and a startling 10 percent below the poverty row superhero sequel, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace .

But is Left Behind really a terrible film or has it been subjected to a critical drubbing because of its overt religious themes? To be clear: it’s the former. For this writer, the core idea in Left Behind is a really effective one and could have made for a properly eerie apocalyptic thriller. People all over the world are suddenly vanishing into thin air, and those remaining are quite understandably freaking out. The problem with Left Behind isn’t its concept but its execution. This is best summed up in one particular scene, which we’ll get to in a moment.

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But first, here’s a bit of context.

A decidedly out-of-sorts seeming Nicolas Cage stars as airline pilot Rayford Steele, who is thousands of feet above the Earth when the planet’s good-hearted souls are whisked off into the ether. While Rayford deals with terrified passengers and the disappearance of his co-pilot, Steele’s daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) is having an equally bewildering day at ground level. Chloe’s little brother has just disappeared during a shopping trip, leaving her to roam a panic-stricken city in a fruitless search.

Directed by Vic Armstrong (perhaps best known for his work as a stuntman), Left Behind adapts a relatively small portion of the source novel–one of a series of bestsellers written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.  The result is a kind of disaster movie with an apocalyptic, biblical edge, with the later, Book of Revelation-inspired events of the novel presumably being saved for a sequel.

At present, plans for a follow-up to Left Behind appear to be on hold, which is quite disappointing in a strange sort of way. With its bizarre dialogue and inexplicable filmmaking decisions, Left Behind presents one of the funniest apocalypses yet committed to film. We could pick all kinds of moments that illustrate just how uniquely strange Left Behind is: the scene where Lea Thompson (who plays Cage’s wife) stares adoringly at an appallingly photoshopped picture of her family. 

Left Behind Terrible Family Photo Photoshop

Or maybe the scene where Chloe’s left holding the clothes of her vanished little brother. Or the way everyone reacts to these mass vanishings not with confusion or horror, but with the kind of unrestrained enthusiasm you usually see at a Black Friday sale.

Or the bit where this woman shrieks, “Please staahhhpp!” to the unaccountably angry guy ramming her car with his pick-up truck. 

Instead we’ll concentrate on this:

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Left Behind Worst Break In Cassi Thomson

The Worst Break-In Scene of All Time

As the world descends into a maelstrom of looting and screaming, Chloe heads off in the search for her brother. Her travels eventually lead her to a pair of glass doors leading into a hospital. Taken with the idea that she’ll find some answers within, Chloe picks up a large “no smoking” sign and uses it to smash a hole in the glass. Gingerly lowering herself onto her hands and knees, Chloe slowly–painstakingly–crawls through the hole, trying to position her hands in order to avoid the tiny cubes of glass. 

The scene runs for a scant 40 seconds or so, but actually feels much longer. It’s weirdly voyeuristic, to the point where it no longer feels as though we’re watching Chloe, the character in the story, but Cassi Thomson the actress trying not to injure herself. It’s as though Left Behind ceases to be a movie at this moment, since we’re suddenly become sidetracked by the apparent drama Thomson appears to have faced in this scene: is that real glass?  As she drags herself through the shattered doorway, she wears the expression of someone truly concerned about the possibility of accidental harm. 

Having made it through the glass and back on her feet, Chloe’s look of relief looks genuine. In a movie full of illogical character decisions and moments that never quite ring true, it’s a distracting moment of verisimilitude. Like the looks of exhaustion on the faces of everyone in Fitzcarraldo or the very genuine looks of fear in the eyes of The Exorcist ‘ s cast , Chloe’s un-athletic break-in attempt sees reality and illusion collide. But rather than heighten the effect of the story, as in Fitzcarraldo or The Exorcist , the sudden realism merely underlines just how unreal the rest of the movie is.

read more: Superman Lives – The Dan Gilroy Era

Just to top things off, Chloe then slips through a door into the hospital, which is positively humming with activity. It’s a reminder of how odd Chloe’s break-in really was; she could have entered via the front door, but chose not to because there were a few people in the way, pushing and pulling each other around.

This whole escapade sums up Left Behind as a whole: as Nic Cage sits gloomily in his plane and Chloe wanders around hospitals and supermarket car parks, the movie itself seems to be searching, in vain, for a meatier story to tell.

Left Behind Nicolas Cage

Nic Cage, clearly uneasy with the whole situation, finds his own way of passing the time.

Ryan Lambie

Ryan Lambie

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‘left behind’: film review.

A big-screen reboot of the direct-to-video, faith-based films based on the best-selling series by Jeffrey B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye

By THR Staff

The rapture won’t come soon enough for the unfortunate souls forced to suffer through Left Behind , the big-screen reboot of the direct-to-video, faith-based film series starring Kirk Cameron . Essentially playing like a spoof of ’70s-era disaster movies, this adaptation of the mega-selling books written by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye demonstrates that a bigger budget and a bigger star ( Nicolas Cage ) doesn’t necessarily make ridiculous material any more palatable.

After delivering its first Bible verse within the opening minutes, the film introduces us to its central characters: Rayford Steele (Cage), an airline pilot unhappy with his wife Irene’s ( Lea Thompson ) religiosity; his religion-skeptic daughter, Chloe ( Cassi Thomson ); and Buck Williams ( Chad Michael Murray ), a famous television news reporter who strikes up a flirtation with Chloe shortly before boarding her dad’s flight from NYC to London.

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Chloe has arrived from college to celebrate her father’s birthday, only to discover that he’s about to embark on a transatlantic flight. Exacerbating her anger is his apparent closeness with a sexy flight attendant who practically clings to him at the airport.

Read more   Faith-Based ‘Left Behind’ Books Returning to the Big Screen

Her suspicions are not unfounded, as Ray is indeed planning a dalliance with the comely blonde once they arrive in London, signaled by the U2 concert tickets he’s apparently arranged weeks in advance.

Not long into the flight, a bizarre event occurs. Numerous passengers, as well as a flight attendant and the co-pilot, mysteriously disappear, leaving behind only their clothes and personal belongings. We soon learn that the occurrence is happening across the globe, with millions of people miraculously vanishing, including Chloe’s mother and younger brother.

The film alternates between scenes taking place on the plane, with the left behind passengers understandably panicking, and Chloe desperately attempting to find her brother amid the ensuing chaos, which includes driverless cars and pilotless planes crashing all around her.

Read more   Satan is Promoting Nicolas Cage’s Newest Movie

Realizing that both the co-pilot and the flight attendant were devout Christians, Ray soon figures out that what’s occurring is the event which his wife has long been predicting, with only children and true believers falling under its aegis. When an errant airplane sans pilots clips his aircraft’s wing, he’s faced with the task of returning his plane to JFK Airport (played none too convincingly by one in Baton Rouge) safely even as his fuel supply dips perilously low, as if the film had somehow morphed into Airport 2014 .

Complicating his task is the motley assemblage of frantic passengers, including a devout Muslim (apparently only Christians get to go to heaven); the wife of an NFL quarterback who thinks that her husband has somehow engineered her daughter’s disappearance and begins waving a gun procured from a vanished air marshal; and an angry dwarf whose glowering outbursts seem mainly designed to provide comic relief. The only thing missing is Helen Reddy as a singing nun.

Meanwhile, Chloe, under the impression that her father’s plane has crashed, climbs to the top of a tower with the intention of doing herself in. But just as she’s about to jump she receives a cell phone call from her dad and Buck, who entrust her with finding a suitable place for the plane to land since all the nearby airports are closed. The plucky young woman goes about her task with incredible ingenuity, single-handedly clearing a debris-strewn highway and navigating the plane toward its destination with the handy compass app on her phone.

Awkwardly combining religious proselytizing with disaster-movie tropes, Left Behind , with its sub-par production values, howler-filled dialogue and terrible performances, fails miserably on every level. Cage, who in interviews has said he took the role at the urging of his pastor brother, seems virtually sedated throughout, even when his character is convinced that his plane is headed for certain doom.

The first entry of an intended franchise, the film only inspires hope that its creators will see the light before its sequels can be developed.

Production: Stoney Lake Entertainment Cast: Nicolas Cage, Chad Micheal Murray, Cassie Thomson, Nicky Whelan, Lea Thompson, Jordin Sparks Director: Vic Armstrong Screenwriter: Paul Lalonde, John Patus Producers: Ed Clydesdale, Paul Lalonde, Michael Walker Executive producers: Christopher Sean Brown, Bill Busbice Jr., Jason Hewitt, Willie Robertson, J. David Williams, R. Bryan Wright Director of photography: Jack N. Green Editor: Michael J. Duthie Production designer: Stephen Altman Costume designer: Abby O’Sullivan Composer: Jack Lenz Casting directors: Dean E. Fronk, Donald Paul Pemrick

Rated PG-13, 110 minutes

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A lot or a little.

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Left Behind is the bigger-budget reboot of 2000's indie hit Left Behind: The Movie about the Rapture, in which all of the world's good people are whisked away to heaven, leaving the rest behind. There's some general chaos, shouting, pushing, shoving, and looting, as well as a plane crash scene. There's no language or sex, but the main character seems about to have an affair, and women are shown in somewhat sexy outfits. A minor character is shown to be a drug addict; she removes a hidden stash, remembers a "bad trip," and has track marks on her arms. For those who don't come to the film already buying into the story, the message is muddled and somewhat hopeless, and the presentation is awkward. Many fans of the series (in addition to the previous movie, there are several best-selling books) will likely flock to it, unless they have an issue with Nicolas Cage in the lead role.

Community Reviews

Violent, Incoherent movie that fumbles faith beliefs

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Stupid, ham-fisted propaganda, what's the story.

Chloe Steele (Cassi Thomson) hasn't been home from college in a while because her mom ( Lea Thompson ) has gotten very religious, and things are awkward. Chloe visits for her dad Ray's birthday, but Ray ( Nicolas Cage ), an airline pilot, has agreed to fly to London. Chloe finds him at the airport and fears that he's having an affair with a pretty flight attendant (Nicky Whelan). She also meets a star TV reporter, Buck Williams ( Chad Michael Murray ), who's on her father's flight and who lends her a sympathetic ear. But then millions of people, including all children, suddenly disappear, sending the world into a panic. Chloe tries to find her brother and her mom, while Ray must single-handedly get his aircraft safely on the ground.

Is It Any Good?

Directed by legendary stuntman Vic Armstrong, LEFT BEHIND is a bigger-budget but subpar reboot of the faith-based indie hit from 2000, itself based on a series of best-selling novels. Everything revolves around the simultaneous fear of -- and desire for -- The Rapture. But the movie's crucial flaw is that the filmmakers want to create sympathetic characters out of those who were deemed sinners and thus not delivered to God. Viewers are supposed to like them but not want to be like them (even though they all fly first class).

Aside from that faulty conceit, the movie, on a pure thriller level, is a massive collection of awkward, poorly written character moments and supposedly spectacular set pieces that are stretched far too thin. The big moment is over in just a few seconds, and the rest is all a bad disaster film. Certainly there are profound, spiritual movies in the world and movies that could enhance your faith, but Left Behind preaches only to the converted.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about Left Behind 's violence . How did it affect you? How much is shown, and how much is implied? How skillfully does the movie convey the sense of scale of this event?

What's the movie's message? Does it inspire faith or spirituality? Is it a warning?

Are the characters sympathetic, even though they were left behind? What are their faults? Can they be forgiven?

Movie Details

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A classic of faith and values.

For kids who love thrills

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left behind cage movie review

Left Behind: The Movie

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left behind cage movie review

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Movie Review

It’s fitting that the end of the world should begin with a whimper, not a bang. Ray is still fighting with his wife, escaping from a stressed-out home life to the sanctuary of his 747 cockpit. Buck is winging his way around the world looking for that ever-elusive Pulitzer-winning news story, palling around with flight attendants and nutcase informants. Hattie’s tired of waiting around for Ray to leave his wife so she can have him to herself. Chloe’s taking exams. Then, suddenly, chaos as the whimper implodes. Millions of people disappear, instantly, making a quantum leap into eternity. But their clothes aren’t the only things left behind. Countless people living without Christ are left to put together the puzzle pieces of real life events they can’t hope to fully comprehend.

Next stop: the Antichrist.

Left Behind: The Movie dramatizes the biblically prophesied rapture of believers and the beginning of the tribulation which follows (mid-trib and post-trib theologians better make their own movie). The script, based on the best-selling Left Behind novels by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, attempts to capture both the intimate moments of human drama and the broad strokes of political intrigue. It works—part of the time.

My own feelings about the film are as mixed as its reviews. On the secular side, many critics have panned production values and story lines. Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide ’s Movie Guide was being nice when he wrote, “This picture’s b-movie values probably play better on video than in theaters.” The Associated Press’ Anthony Breznican just came out and said what he really felt, declaring Left Behind “a weak proselytizing device masquerading as a movie.” On the Christian side, critics are raving. “Viewers from pre-teens up will find Left Behind intriguing and thought provoking,” writes John Evans for Preview Family Movie and TV Review . “ Left Behind is the best movie made so far in the apocalyptic genre and has been crafted with a very careful, deft touch,” declares Ted Baehr’s Movieguide . In the end, there’s a little bit of truth in all of it. Left Behind does fall closer to the “b” line than the “a.” It is also thought provoking and intriguing. Everything depends on your standard for comparison. Judged against the “made-for-cable” crowd, it’s one of the best flicks out there. Up against Steven Spielberg, it’s underwhelming.

positive elements/spiritual content: Without commenting on the ins and outs of “last days” prophesy, it’s fair to say that Left Behind does a great job of confronting moviegoers with the truth of God’s Word. His salvation plan for mankind. The way the world winds down. Several key characters ask Christ to take over their hearts, and the sinner’s prayer is verbalized. Ray comes to realize that his family is the most valuable thing he has, and that realization, coupled with God’s work in his heart, changes his life. A left-behind preacher realizes that what he taught his congregation didn’t line up with how he lived. “What a fraud I am,” he moans, “and everybody bought it.” Directing his attention to the Lord, he cries, “I knew your message. I knew your words. . . . Knowing and believing are two different things.” Buck says, “Our only hope is to join together and trust God. I don’t have all the answers, but for now, faith is enough.” Scripture passages—from Daniel, to Ezekiel, to 1 Thessalonians—are used to explain end-times events.

sexual content: None. It could be assumed that Ray and Hattie had engaged in an extramarital affair, but no details are given. It’s just as plausible that the two shared an unconsummated flirtation, rather than a sexual relationship. Either way, Ray is convicted of his behavior and seeks forgiveness.

violent content: War planes bomb Israel. The scene shows people scurrying for cover and massive explosions tearing through a city. A car bomb kills a CIA agent. An informant is found lying dead in his house. And in an unsettling moment near the end, the Antichrist callously executes two men with pointblank gunfire. In addition, a sniper’s bullet narrowly misses Buck’s head. A large freeway pileup results in burning cars and bleeding victims.

crude or profane language: “Oh God” and “Oh my God” are each used once.

drug and alcohol content: Buck’s colleagues at his news agency smoke (one woman is shown smoking several times). An informant holds a lit cigarette in his hand, but never takes a puff. A bar scene features a very drunk woman. It seems that Buck also orders a beer.

conclusion: Anyone who has seen the Apocalypse or A Thief in the Night trilogies will find Left Behind to be familiar territory (thankfully, 2000 production values far exceed those available in 1972). And just like the books that inspired it, this movie’s ending fairly screams “sequel.” That’s all fine and good—many of Hollywood’s greatest stories have been continued —but prepare yourself for a few unanswered questions as the credits roll.

That said, Left Behind makes great strides in the Christian moviemaking world. It boasts a positive, yet challenging core message. It features zero sex scenes. No vulgarity. And a reserved—if sometimes intense—approach to violent events. Its harrowing themes may frighten young children (just like A Thief in the Night scared the dickens out of me when I was a kid), but teens and adults should find a lot to like about Left Behind .

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