Vic Armstrong is one of the great figures of the stunt world; you’ve seen his work in dozens of our favourite action films, from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Terminator 2. He’s a genuine cult hero for action cinema enthusiasts, but his directorial effort Left Behind just wasn’t the right move for him or us. With Nicolas Cage being all the rage these days, and some introspective analysis of his darkest hours included in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, it felt like a good time to exhume their much derided religion-sci-fi adventure Left Behind, which crashed, burned, flamed out and generally wasn’t well-loved back in 2014.
Based on a bestselling franchise of Christian faith-based novels, Left Behind is a disaster movie where the disaster in question is The Rapture, when all the good people leave the earth, leaving piles of limp clothing, and all the sinners get left behind, as the title suggests. Cage plays pilot Rayford Steele, who is about to take a passenger plane from JFK to London, missing the birthday party of his daughter Chloe (Cassi Thompson) to do so. During the flight, various children and a few adults vanish, and as chaos engulfs the world, Rayford Steele has to use all of his flying expertise to get the sinful survivors back to terra firma.
Armstrong does well, as you might expect, with the physical effects, but Left Behind flounders in all other areas. Cage is a great actor on form, but when he phones it in, he’s a risible presence, and so it proves here. For a film with a religious POV, the attitudes displayed are baffling; several characters explain what The Rapture is, but they’re all portrayed in an unsympathetic light, and the film seems entirely preoccupied with the mechanics of landing a jet aircraft on a motorway rather than any theological questions.
‘I have no spoilers, no flaps, no elevators, and if I run this thing dry, no reverse thrust, I need some room!’ squeaks Rayford as his plane threatens to ditch in the ocean; fortunately his daughter is able to clear a landing area to ensure a happy ending. Left Behind is gaining a reputation as a camp classic, and even Christian audiences didn’t know what to make of this weirdly compromised film; a low-point for Cage, Armstrong and anyone who happens to see it, Left Behind is unbearable for all but hard-core bad movie fans, who will find it a rich text indeed. If you’re looking for a thoughtful, spiritual, thought-provoking film, the takeaway is; don’t get Left Behind.