Movie review: Good acting fails to save Left Behind

Nicolas Cage is a pilot who must survive a chaotic world where millions have vanished.
Nicolas Cage is a pilot who must survive a chaotic world where millions have vanished.PHOTO: CATHAY-KERIS FILMS

Review Thriller

LEFT BEHIND (PG)

110 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**

The story: Based on the best-selling series of Christian books about the remnants of humanity left to cope after the righteous are taken bodily into Heaven. The focus is on the family of pilot Ray Steele (Nicolas Cage), an adulterer whose religious wife (Lea Thompson) and young son Raymie (Major Dodson) have been taken. He and his daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) must survive the chaos of a world where millions have vanished into thin air.

The strangest thing about this work based on Christian fiction is how little there is of obvious Christian doctrine here; the second strangest thing is how unsubtly and clumsily that little bit of doctrine is woven into the story.

Whenever it appears, it jolts the viewer out of the thriller narrative, a reminder that this is a partisan movie, as much of one as, say, the biography, Son Of God (2014).

Biblical epic Noah (2014) can be enjoyed as disaster-movie spectacle or allegory, but there really is little point in watching this flat and straightforward interpretation of religiously inspired text for its entertainment value. While it does have a few end-of-the-world action set-pieces, all of its premises must be swallowed before any of the goings-on make sense.

In other words, every weird event here is an act of God, so just deal with it or you will have a bad time. For example, after the occurrence of the rapture (the Biblically foretold event in which true believers are taken whole, but minus their clothing, into Heaven), there is a huge amount of time spent in which the left behind gnash their teeth in anguish while wondering what happened.

This "genre blindness" - a trope of fiction in which characters in, say, a zombie movie live in a universe where zombie fiction has never existed and so do not know how to deal with an outbreak or explain it - becomes irritating after a point.

"It's the rapture, dummy", becomes the phrase the viewer wants to hurl at the screen, especially when the story practically screams down your ear that only good Christians and young children have vanished.

The "good" Muslim passenger is pointedly shown left behind, as is a nice, smart Asian man. This leads to all sorts of interesting theological questions - how old do you have to be to be considered no longer innocent, for example -  but the movie examines none of them.

Cage seems to be nowhere near his limit in picking risky projects or maybe he just puts his name on anything that pays; it is hard to tell anymore.

He is a good actor, as is Thompson, but they are in a world in which no amount of solid acting will help.