Published Mar 01, 2001Based on the best selling novel, "Left Behind," the movie, which is described as "a spellbinding journey through The Book of Revelation," is a blatant attempt to espouse an evangelical Christian belief system through the guise of a Hollywood apocalyptic thriller. Religion and thrillers often make a great cinematic combination - there's nothing like the Bible to conjure up a dramatic vision of the end of the world - but unfortunately "Left Behind" is too blindly pious and, more importantly, too poorly executed to be anything but embarrassing.
The movie's plot has millions of people (all of the children and some of the adults) from all over the world mysteriously disappearing at the same moment. Among those 'left behind' to try to figure out where everyone went are airline pilot Rayford Steele (Brad Johnson) and his daughter Chloe (Janaya Stephens), who have lost the other half of their family, and famed television journalist Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron). The Steele father and daughter team, with the help of their local pastor (Clarence Gilyard), discover that the ones who disappeared had in common their true and pure religious faith, and that they have ascended to heaven as is prophesied in the Bible. Buck Williams uncovers a very convoluted conspiracy that has international financiers and United Nations officials, unwittingly manipulated by the Antichrist, joining forces to control the world's food supply, create peace in the Middle East, offer complete nuclear disarmament, and rebuild an ancient temple in Jerusalem. Together, the newly devout Buck, Rayford, and Chloe put their faith in God that they can endure the Antichrist's seven year reign of terror.
The story, as you can probably tell by now, is bizarre and confusing, relying on a far-fetched interpretation of very select biblical passages. But this ride through paranoid, disjointed conspiracy theology might have been at least surreally entertaining if it wasn't so bogged down in wooden acting, bad dialogue, and dogmatic messages. Kirk Cameron is never believable as the hot-shot reporter risking life and limb to get the scoop, and Brad Johnson is stiff and unable to reach the kind of emotional depth necessary for his character, although I guess with the ridiculous text that all of the poor actors are forced to deliver, a good performance would be nothing short of a miracle.
These poor performances, however, make the main characters' religious conversions come across as desperate and insincere, which belies the whole point of the film. There are a lot of earnest intentions behind the making of "Left Behind," where most of the collaborators (including the very devout Kirk Cameron and wife Chelsea Noble, who also plays a role) seem to view their involvement as a kind of missionary work. They seem to have failed at this work, as I can't imagine how this clumsy storytelling and bad filmmaking could inspire a soul to devote themselves to the life that the film so poorly portrays.