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Movie Review

It’s fitting that the end of the world should begin with a whimper, not a bang. Ray is still fighting with his wife, escaping from a stressed-out home life to the sanctuary of his 747 cockpit. Buck is winging his way around the world looking for that ever-elusive Pulitzer-winning news story, palling around with flight attendants and nutcase informants. Hattie’s tired of waiting around for Ray to leave his wife so she can have him to herself. Chloe’s taking exams. Then, suddenly, chaos as the whimper implodes. Millions of people disappear, instantly, making a quantum leap into eternity. But their clothes aren’t the only things left behind. Countless people living without Christ are left to put together the puzzle pieces of real life events they can’t hope to fully comprehend.

Next stop: the Antichrist.

Left Behind: The Movie dramatizes the biblically prophesied rapture of believers and the beginning of the tribulation which follows (mid-trib and post-trib theologians better make their own movie). The script, based on the best-selling Left Behind novels by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, attempts to capture both the intimate moments of human drama and the broad strokes of political intrigue. It works—part of the time.

My own feelings about the film are as mixed as its reviews. On the secular side, many critics have panned production values and story lines. Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide’s Movie Guide was being nice when he wrote, "This picture's b-movie values probably play better on video than in theaters." The Associated Press’ Anthony Breznican just came out and said what he really felt, declaring Left Behind "a weak proselytizing device masquerading as a movie." On the Christian side, critics are raving. "Viewers from pre-teens up will find Left Behind intriguing and thought provoking," writes John Evans for Preview Family Movie and TV Review. "Left Behind is the best movie made so far in the apocalyptic genre and has been crafted with a very careful, deft touch," declares Ted Baehr’s Movieguide. In the end, there’s a little bit of truth in all of it. Left Behind does fall closer to the "b" line than the "a." It is also thought provoking and intriguing. Everything depends on your standard for comparison. Judged against the "made-for-cable" crowd, it’s one of the best flicks out there. Up against Steven Spielberg, it’s underwhelming.

positive elements/spiritual content: Without commenting on the ins and outs of "last days" prophesy, it’s fair to say that Left Behind does a great job of confronting moviegoers with the truth of God’s Word. His salvation plan for mankind. The way the world winds down. Several key characters ask Christ to take over their hearts, and the sinner’s prayer is verbalized. Ray comes to realize that his family is the most valuable thing he has, and that realization, coupled with God’s work in his heart, changes his life. A left-behind preacher realizes that what he taught his congregation didn’t line up with how he lived. "What a fraud I am," he moans, "and everybody bought it." Directing his attention to the Lord, he cries, "I knew your message. I knew your words. . . . Knowing and believing are two different things." Buck says, "Our only hope is to join together and trust God. I don’t have all the answers, but for now, faith is enough." Scripture passages—from Daniel, to Ezekiel, to 1 Thessalonians—are used to explain end-times events.

sexual content: None. It could be assumed that Ray and Hattie had engaged in an extramarital affair, but no details are given. It’s just as plausible that the two shared an unconsummated flirtation, rather than a sexual relationship. Either way, Ray is convicted of his behavior and seeks forgiveness.

violent content: War planes bomb Israel. The scene shows people scurrying for cover and massive explosions tearing through a city. A car bomb kills a CIA agent. An informant is found lying dead in his house. And in an unsettling moment near the end, the Antichrist callously executes two men with pointblank gunfire. In addition, a sniper’s bullet narrowly misses Buck’s head. A large freeway pileup results in burning cars and bleeding victims.

crude or profane language:"Oh God" and "Oh my God" are each used once.

drug and alcohol content: Buck’s colleagues at his news agency smoke (one woman is shown smoking several times). An informant holds a lit cigarette in his hand, but never takes a puff. A bar scene features a very drunk woman. It seems that Buck also orders a beer.

conclusion: Anyone who has seen the Apocalypse or A Thief in the Night trilogies will find Left Behind to be familiar territory (thankfully, 2000 production values far exceed those available in 1972). And just like the books that inspired it, this movie’s ending fairly screams "sequel." That’s all fine and good—many of Hollywood’s greatest stories have been continued—but prepare yourself for a few unanswered questions as the credits roll.

That said, Left Behind makes great strides in the Christian moviemaking world. It boasts a positive, yet challenging core message. It features zero sex scenes. No vulgarity. And a reserved—if sometimes intense—approach to violent events. Its harrowing themes may frighten young children (just like A Thief in the Night scared the dickens out of me when I was a kid), but teens and adults should find a lot to like about Left Behind.

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Kirk Cameron as Buck Williams; Brad Johnson as Rayford Steele; Chelsea Noble as Hattie Durham; Clarence Gilyard Jr. as Bruce Barnes; Gordon Currie as Nicolae Carpathia; Janaya Stephens as Chloe Steele; Christie MacFadyen as Irene Steele; Jay Manchester as Rayford (Raymie) Steele Jr.


Victor Sarin ( )


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Steven Isaac

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