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Left Behind (2014) Blu-ray Review

Left Behind (2014) movie poster Left Behind

Theatrical Release: October 3, 2014 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Vic Armstrong / Writers: Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins (novel); Paul Lalonde, John Patus (screenplay)

Cast: Nicolas Cage (Captain Rayford "Ray" Steele), Chad Michael Murray (Cameron "Buck" Williams), Cassi Thomson (Chloe Steele), Nicky Whelan (Hattie Durham), Jordin Sparks (Shasta Carvell), Lea Thompson (Irene Steele), Gary Grubbs (Dennis Beese), Quinton Aaron (Simon), Martin Klebba (Melvin Weir), Georgina Rawlings (Venice Baxter), Han Soto (Edwin), Alec Rayme (Hassid), Kamryn Johnson (Katie), Laura Swinney (Old Lady), Major Dodson (Raymie Steele), Lance E. Nichols (Pastor Bruce Barnes), William Ragsdale (Chris Smith), Stephanie Honorι (Kimmy)

Buy Left Behind from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

Nicolas Cage's career has been in sharp decline since 2010. At that time, Cage was considered a major movie star. He may not have been A-list, but perhaps A-minus or B-plus. Cage's success in action movies, many of them produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and distributed by Disney, was significant enough to minimize the occasional flop.
Critical and commercial misfires like The Wicker Man, Next, and Bangkok Dangerous were mere setbacks as long as Cage could still headline big movies like the National Treasure adventures. In 2010, the flops began piling up, starting with Bruckheimer and Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a pretty good but wildly unprofitable big-budget fantasy.

With the exception of providing a voice in DreamWorks' animated hit The Croods, things have only gotten worse since then. Increasingly Cage's movies have been limited to playing in a few hundred theaters or going straight to video. Cage's image has devolved from amusingly unselective star to flat out laughingstock. The actor just hasn't been able to catch a break. His unwanted Ghost Rider sequel was somehow even worse and much less-attended than the much-maligned predecessor from which it departed. Meanwhile, David Gordon Green's Joe, his best reviewed film in years, languished in four dozen theaters last spring.

Things have gotten so dire for Cage that he's taken drastic measures to maintain his leading man status. His latest film is Left Behind, which is indeed a remake of a little direct-to-video 2000 movie starring Kirk Cameron. If you've kept tabs on Cameron's 21st century work, then you know it's almost entirely been faith-based drama. That's right: Nicolas Cage has made a Christian film. That puts him on the fringes of Hollywood, in a position typically reserved for church people like Cameron and his Sherwood Pictures friends and born-again has-beens like Gary Busey. Not fitting into either of those groups, Cage creates another: financially strapped movie stars on the wane who will do anything for a big stage and a nice-sized paycheck.

"Left Behind" stars Nicolas Cage as Rayford Steele, a commercial jet pilot who's flying from New York to London when the Rapture strikes.

Cage plays Ray Steele, an airline pilot based in New York. Ray's marriage has hit a rocky patch, which he and his co-ed daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) attribute to Mom's (Lea Thompson) newfound faith. Ray isn't sweating the marital strain, rationalizing, "If she's gonna run off with another man, why not Jesus?" Meanwhile, he's been taking off his wedding ring and getting flirtatious with leggy blonde stewardess Hattie (Nicky Whelan).

In a series of events that make almost no sense whatsoever, Chloe has flown home from California for Ray's birthday, only to learn that he's flying a plane from JFK to London this day. At JFK, Chloe doesn't just run into her dad (and question the absence of his wedding ring), she also makes the acquaintance of moderately famous investigative journalist Cameron Williams (Chad Michael Murray), "Buck" to his friends. The two young cynics hit it off over their religious doubts. A colleague of Ray's gives Chloe a pair of U2 tickets to give to her father, a job she passes onto Cameron/Buck, who is a passenger on Captain Steele's New York to London overnight flight. The tickets are apparently for Ray and Hattie, who doesn't know he's married.

Such plans become immaterial when in an instant, millions of people around the world suddenly disappear, leaving behind their clothes like the Santa who falls off the roof in The Santa Clause (disappointingly, the clothes are not neatly folded as they were in Apocalypse, a little-known 1998 movie also from writer-producer Paul Lalonde). The word "Rapture" is never uttered but unless you're completely unfamiliar with evangelical Christianity and the doomsday prophecies of the likes of syndication stalwart Jack Van Impe, you'll recognize the scenario. As far as we can see, all kids and few adults go vanishing all over the world (how that adds up to just millions, I don't know), including a number of passengers and Ray's co-pilot on PanCon Flight 257.

A Muslim, a dwarf, a drug user, and an investigative journalist are among the First Class passengers who are... left behind.

The departed have not disappeared at random; they have been saved by their faith.
Among them are Ray's wife and younger son. Of course, Ray and Chloe are among those left behind. We get acquainted with several unsaved non-believers occupying the First Class section of Flight 257. They include an angry dwarf (Martin Klebba), a paranoid wife of a Jets quarterback ("American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks), a Muslim (Alec Rayme), an alien conspiracy nut (Han Soto), a dementia-addled old woman (Laura Swinney), and a drug-using British blonde (Georgina Rawlings). These people and their fellow fliers run an emotional gamut, voicing fears and regrets as they ponder their predicament.

Adding to their panic is the sudden danger that Flight 257 finds itself in. With communications lost and fuel quickly running out after Ray inexplicably, unforgivably crashes into an unpiloted aircraft (causing a wing to catch fire), his plane turns around to return to New York but desperately needs a cleared runway on which to land with various gears breaking down. Fortunately for Ray and Cameron/Buck, who has surprisingly open access to the cockpit, they've got a friend on the ground in Chloe, who leaps into action heroine mode when needed.

This Left Behind doesn't push too hard on the salvation in faith aspect. Sure, the saved are determined to have been whisked away to Heaven, which one hopes is nice. But we're stuck with the sinners and miscreants, trying to survive as the world becomes a living hell of looting and riots. Frankly, it seems like we should be glad that some people haven't accepted Christ in their lives: imagine all the additional casualties there'd be if all doctors and pilots were pure, God-fearing folk. Still think Mom is a "wacko", Chloe?

The film genuinely believes itself to be an exciting action-adventure movie. Its makers and distributor Freestyle Releasing convinced theater exhibitors of its credentials to the tune of nearly 2,000 domestic venues agreeing to screen it. Presumably some of these same theaters regretted the doubts they had in assigning screens to God's Not Dead, a much smaller Christian film from the same studio that wound up grossing a stunning $61 million domestically last spring. To boot, Left Behind wielded some genre thrills, a familiar brand (the Kirk Cameron version camped out on Amazon's best-selling DVD list for months) and an uncommonly seasoned cast and crew, including longtime stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong (Harrison Ford's stunt double in Blade Runner, Return of the Jedi, and the first three Indiana Jones films) at the helm.

Circumstances require that Ray's collegiate daughter (Cassi Thomson) instantly become an action heroine.

Exhibitors' hopes proved to be largely unfounded, although the $14 million this Left Behind earned made it Cage's top-grossing non-sequel since 2011's Season of the Witch and his highest-earning, under 2,000-theater release since 2002's Adaptation. The earnings were also considerably better than those of The Identical, the Elvis-inspired Christian music flick Freestyle had placed in even more theaters a month earlier.

Of course, these are minor victories and Left Behind can only be categorized as a disaster of a disaster movie. From its vehement dismissal by all but a single Tomatometer critic (with shockingly low average scores of 1.6 to 2.1 out of 10) to its inability to catch on with Christian moviegoers (a demographic courted with more regularity than usual in 2014) to its utter inability to bring anything resembling rejuvenation to Cage's moribund theatrical career, Left Behind struck out in every regard. I can't call it the worst film of 2014 that I've seen, but it's certainly close to the bottom of the 150 or so I've caught so far.

Left Behind may wield a modicum of star power, but that doesn't keep it from feeling like an amateur, inferior production. This film features some of the world's strangest/most lacking sound design, comedy bits, green screen and other visual effects, transitional edits, background acting, and foreground acting I've ever encountered. Admittedly, you'll find these problems in many low-budget movies, Christian or not. Still, it's rare to see such blatant disregard for taste and technique on a relatively large scale. Cage has made his fair share of clunkers, though most aren't as bad as critics have claimed and even the bad ones tend to have some redeeming comic value. But I doubt that he's made a movie this unpolished before or shown as little interest while doing so. People of all faiths should be able to agree that this is an insulting excuse for a contemporary film that invites ridicule above all else.

Its short theatrical run already forgotten, Left Behind recently came to Blu-ray and DVD from eOne, Entertainment One.

Left Behind (2014) Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Instant Video


The Blu-ray's 2.39:1 presentation looks fine, subpar visual effects and awkward actors notwithstanding. Sound is strangely not presented in one of the two standard lossless HD formats but instead plain Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. It still manages to make impact with glass-rattling potency during certain moments. Audio shortcomings and anomalies seem more the product of the original recordings and sound mixing than a poor transfer to home video.

Believe it or not, Nicolas Cage and Chad Michael Murray weren't really flying a plane. A process called green screen was used to convince you otherwise. Cassi Thomson and Lea Thompson (no relation) share a garden glove hug in this still from the photo slideshow.


Left Behind is joined by over an hour of supplemental material, all of it HD,
that is divided into two classes: "special features" and "bonus features."

The first section begins with Left Behind's short theatrical trailer (1:38).

Next comes the featurette "The Making of Left Behind: ...The End Begins" (19:01). It begins with the novels' authors explaining the origin of the book, then moves to the making of the film (casting an "A-list actor", action stunts, visual effects) and eventually the subject of faith prophecy. Cast and crew interviews are complemented by plenty of behind-the-scenes footage. The green screen work here, especially on Cage's interview, is every bit as distractingly bad as in the movie.

A Behind the Scenes slideshow (3:14) moves around publicity stills and production photos while DC Talk's "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" plays.

Though he looks like he's revealing the answer to life, the universe, and everything, Nic Cage is actually just likening "Left Behind" to his earlier "spiritual" movies like "Knowing" and "City of Angels." Imagine a schoolteacher whose students all disappear in the Rapture. Does she look like this in your mind?

A section of Cast & Crew Interviews (31:24) serves up extended versions of the sessions
from which the featurette remarks are culled (only with their backdrops changed). Here, we hear from actors Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thomson, Nicky Whelan, Jordin Sparks, Alec Rayme, screenwriter-producer Paul Lalonde, and director Vic Armstrong. Their comments on their characters and the project at large are nicely jazzed up with some silent clips from the film. Highlights include Cage comparing this to his past "spiritual movies" like City of Angels and Knowing, the blink and miss Murray describing Anderson Cooper as "cool" and "young", Sparks explaining how she played a mother without really being one, and Lalonde describing the film as a "pre-enactment" and saying the Biblical nature of the story scared the rest of the movie business away.

We also get to hear more from the original authors: Dr. Tim LaHaye (2:18) and Jerry B. Jenkins (2:15).

Now we come to the non-special Bonus Features.

Films to Believe In (6:20) holds dated trailers for the following Lalonde productions: Revelation, Tribulation, Judgment, Deceived, and Saving God.

Finally, we get three short "Imagine" videos (2:05), which imagine how the Rapture could play out for a woman calling 911, a school teacher, and a mother at a playground. Melodramatic and poorly acted, these ask "Are you ready?" presumably as some kind of viral marketing for the film.

The disc opens with trailers for fellow Christian movies God Gave Me Wings, Little Red Wagon, and In the Name of God. None of these are available by menu.

The Blu-ray's main menu adds score and subtle animation to the cover art imagery. Separate menu screens are provided for both the bonus features and special features, a design more akin to DVD than Blu-ray. The Region A disc doesn't support bookmarks (how much I wish it did on the multiple shots of cinema's worst Photoshopped family portrait) and annoyingly doesn't resume unfinished playback either. Perhaps that's good news for those hungry to rewatch the disc-opening trailers.

The side-snapped insert-less keepcase slides into a cardboard slipcover that reproduces the cover art at a slightly larger size.

A married pilot (Nicolas Cage) flirting with a single flight attendant (Nicky Whelan) is the image that inspired Tim LaHaye to write the "Left Behind" books.


It's tempting and fair to say that Nicolas Cage has hit a new low in Left Behind. This Christian apocalyptic thriller is lacking in so many ways, from acting to editing to visual effects. It is every bit as if Cage has been transported to some alternate universe, where he isn't an Academy Award winner, the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, and the star of many action blockbusters, but just some novice who's happy to be a big part of an amateur production. Now more than ever, the world (or maybe just Cage) needs a third National Treasure movie.

eOne's Blu-ray offers a passable feature presentation (albeit one with non-lossless sound) plus a wealth of special and bonus features. However, there's no real reason to watch any of it, even if you're a believer who enjoyed the books or the millennial Kirk Cameron version of the film.

Buy Left Behind from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Nicolas Cage: Knowing • Con Air • Season of the Witch • National Treasure • Seeking Justice • Stolen
Martin Klebba: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl | Jordin Sparks: Sparkle
Nicky Whelan: Scrubs: The Complete Ninth Season • Hall Pass | Lea Thompson: Ping Pong Summer • Read Dawn
Flight • Flightplan • Fireproof • Persecuted • Moms' Night Out • Heaven Is for Real • Life of a King
New: The Equalizer • Reach Me • Horns • No Good Deed • Boyhood • Elsa & Fred

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Reviewed January 12, 2015.

Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Freestyle Releasing, Stoney Lake Entertainment, Entertainment One, Ollawood Productions, and 2015 eOne.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.