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Film / Left Behind (2014)

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"The God my mother talked about would never do something like this."

Left Behind is a 2014 thriller film directed by Vic Armstrong, produced by Stoney Lake Entertainment, and starring Nicolas Cage. It is the second attempt at a film adaptation of the first book in Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind series, following the 2000 adaptation starring Kirk Cameron, and loosely covers the first half of the book.

Chloe Steele arrives at the airport in time for her dad's birthday party, and saves a cute reporter from a nutty Christian. It turns out her father, a pilot, got called in to work so they meet at the airport. They see each other and then go their separate ways.

Oh, and then people get Caught Up in the Rapture.

A sequel titled Left Behind: Rise Of The Antichrist, which was directed by Kevin Sorbo and filmed with an entirely different cast, had a limited release in theaters on January 26, 2023.

The film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The film begins shortly before Rayford goes onboard the plane (which isn't actually shown in the book) and ends when he makes an emergency landing. In the book, that part only covers the first few chapters.
  • Adaptational Badass: Chloe gets one, as she MacGyvers a landing strip and flare out of a deserted stretch of highway and some explosives, allowing Ray to land the plane safely.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Hattie is more sympathetic in this adaptation, as unlike the books or the prior films, she has no idea Ray is married.
  • Adaptational Karma: Ray gets a What the Hell, Hero? from Hattie when she finds out he's married, in comparison with the books, which give him a pass regarding his pursuit of her, rationalizing that he hadn't actually closed the deal with her.
  • Adapted Out: Since it covers only the first few chapters of the first book, and is so tightly focused on the airplane trip, you'll never hear Buck Williams make any mention of Chaim Rosenzweig, a character that basically pushed him toward belief in God when Israel survives an all-out attack by Russia by supernatural intervention (also not mentioned).
    • Which is rather odd, because if they were really hoping for more movies in the series they would at least have a little foreshadowing scattered about.
    • Chaim does appear in the sequel, though this time in a slightly different role than in the books.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Despite the global chaos earlier in the film — showing that without the elect, society instantly falls into abject chaos — later in the movie there are cars calmly going down the street behind Chloe as if this has been just any old boring day.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: Immediately after the Rapture Chloe walks through this.
  • Birthday Beginning: The events of the movie start and take place on Rayford Steele's birthday.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Several.
    • There happens to be a flight heading right for their plane.
    • Chloe gets it twice — the car crashing through the mall door at her, and then a plane hits her car in the parking lot.
  • The Cameo: Jordin Sparks, a contestant of American Idol, plays one of the passengers.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: They can't get a signal on their satellite phones, which doesn't make sense (they should have a signal, just be unable to get through because of the traffic)...did the satellites get raptured, too?
  • Culture Blind: Everyone on the plane. 75% of the United States identify as Christian. Many go to church, or do at some point in their lives — even those who aren't "saved" have heard the world and sat through many a church service, which is even pointed out by Pastor Bruce. Yet it takes HOURS and much discussion for someone to finally mention that she went to a Christian Camp years ago and heard about the Rapture and this might be it.
    • And of course the assumption that those who aren't raptured are mostly all greedy self-centered people, considering how the Bible points out that it's more than simply being nice (Ephesians 2:8-9) that gets you saved — but chaotic bad, Black-and-White Morality people make for better visuals and drama.
    • On the other hand, the Rapture isn't part of the beliefs of most Christians and is mostly just known as a weird evangelical thing. Not immediately jumping on to something you consider a heretical fringe belief as an explanation isn't that out of the question.
  • Destination Defenestration: Chloe Steele witnesses somebody getting shotgun-blasted through a glass door window.
  • Driven to Suicide: Chloe Steele almost commits suicide, but a phone call from Buck stops her from doing so.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: The elect leave them behind. Every member of the elect was evidently Going Commando that day, too. As those who are still clothed are disturbed there's no underwear to be seen. Maybe God made an exception and raptured their underwear as well.
  • The End Is Nigh: Chloe Steele sees a THE END IS NEAR sign (next to the empty clothes of the person implied to be holding it) changed to read THE END IS HERE.
  • Episode on a Plane: Will probably go down as such an "episode" if the series gets anywhere. The better part of the movie takes place on the plane, and the rest follows Chloe experiencing the post-Rapture world on her own. Notably, there are no references to the Antichrist or the world at large beyond what we can immediately see besides a passing reference to Buck working for "GWN".
  • Fake Kill Scare: Chloe gets a phone call on her family's answering machine that likely came from her dad's phone, where she hears Rayford the incoming aircraft of their approach before it cuts off. Chloe takes it to mean that her dad's plane had crashed, and this eventually leads her to go jump off a bridge and kill herself.
  • Genre Shift: In the process of adaptation. While the book and the Kirk Cameron movie were more like political thrillers, this version mostly covers Rayford's attempts to land his plane in the aftermath of the Rapture and, as some critics remarked, becomes more reminiscent of 1970s airplane disaster movies like Airport.
  • Ghost Extras: The extras running around in the parking lot of the mall are doing exactly that. Hence not a one of them seems to stop and look at the burning plane, making it strangely an Unusually Uninteresting Sight, even with the pandemonium of the Rapture.
  • I Have Your Wife: One of the passengers on board the plane from New York to London in the movie suspects that her daughter was kidnapped while she wasn't looking and is being held for ransom, so she pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot unless the passengers admit who is responsible. Buck Williams tries to calmly talk her down from killing anybody, while another passenger says that it was most likely the Rapture that took the woman's daughter. She then turns the gun on herself, but Buck also keeps her from killing herself and relinquishes the gun from the woman.
  • Inconvenient Summons: The Rapture itself could be considered this, as Christians are pulled out of whatever they were doing at that moment to be with the Lord, and in certain cases inadvertently putting other people into danger, such as in the case where Rayford's co-pilot disappears from the cockpit while Rayford was talking with Hattie.
  • Informed Ability:
    • Buck's journalism skills on the plane leave much to be desired.
    • Ray doesn't use proper radio procedure.
  • Ironic Birthday: The Rapture takes place on Rayford Steele's birthday.
  • Midair Collision: Barely averted, where Rayford Steele tries to avoid a jet without its pilots heading straight for his. The only thing that happens is wing damage, as it causes the jet to leak fuel as it's headed back toward New York.
  • News Broadcast: Evidently the news gathered it together pretty quickly and got a broadcast out near immediately after the Rapture — heck, even the air traffic controllers didn't gather themselves together that quickly!
  • No Endor Holocaust: Past the anarchy early in the film, which has explosions and mobs of people rioting, as Chloe walks about later in the film there are no more crashed cars on the street, or fires in the background despite the long, pan of her atop the bridge. Then averted as the plane passengers look at a burning New York.
  • Notice This: The camera lingers on the highway construction site — which becomes important later — as Chloe and Raymie drive past it.
  • No OSHA Compliance: There is no reason in the WORLD for an expressway project in the middle of Queens, New York to leave the keys in the ignition of their cars - that's asking for them to be stolen. Also no reason to have that many containers of explosive liquid lying around a road construction site.
  • Oddly Small Organization: Two flight attendants (even pre-rapture) is pretty thin for a transatlantic flight.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Chloe pretty much wanders around and lets things happen to her most of the day.
  • Plot Time: Chole walks around at midday (note the shadows) witnessing the events of the Rapture, while it falls dark pretty quickly for the flight to London. When the plane flies back it catches the last glimpse of sunset as it nears New York — which means the plane was flying faster than the setting sun.
    • The sun "sets" at about 700 miles an hour, roughly at NYC's latitude. Depending on a bunch of factors, the average speed of a passenger airliner is in the range of 600 mph or so, meaning a favorable tailwind and some hustle could possibly match the sun. Still very unlikely, but not outright impossible.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: It seems the unsaved like to run screaming in circles after the Rapture.
  • Product Placement: Starbucks and other mall stores in the mall scene.
  • Race Lift: Bruce Barnes is black in this version of the film.
  • The Radio Dies First: No one is responding to the radio in the plane. There should be lots of planes in the air over the Atlantic they could talk to, unless that day they were pulling from their Christian pilot pool.
  • Second Coming: If the Rapture's taking place, you can bet that Jesus' second coming isn't far off.
  • Sequel Hook:
    Buck: Looks like the end of the world.
    Chloe: No, not yet. I'm afraid this is just the beginning.
  • Shout-Out: Rayford Steele gets concert tickets for U2 on the day the Rapture happens.
  • Smash Cut: Credit where credit is due, the film provides a very nice smash cut when the Muslim pulls something out of his luggage and points it at a suspicious passenger — cut to a man being blasted through a glass door in front of Chloe, back in New York. When we return to the plane, it turns out the Muslim is holding an electric toothbrush.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The tank that explodes as Chloe runs by does not affect anyone or anything — it is just for the Rule of Cool, having a pretty girl running past an explosion in slow-motion.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: No one seems to mind Chloe butting into the evangelist accosting Buck. Not even the evangelist, who obviously wanted Buck's attention, not some college student who is butting in.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ray gets one from Hattie, who is none too pleased to learn that he's married.
  • Wretched Hive: Removing the elect was evidently the only thing keeping society from becoming this. Almost before everyone has a chance to figure out what is happening, people are stealing televisions from the mall.