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Left Behind (2000)

[Left Behind] Left Behind
Cloud Ten Pictures, 2000
Rated: PG-13 in the U.S.A., 15 in the U.K.
Running Time: 96 minutes
Director: Victor Sarin
Producers: Joe Goodman, Peter Lalonde, & Ralph Winter
Amazon.com: NTSC DVD, NTSC VHS
Amazon.ca: NTSC DVD, NTSC DVD
Christianbook.com: NTSC DVD, NTSC VHS
Reviewed by: Greg Slade

Based upon the book by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, this film takes just about as many liberties with the plot as you would expect from a movie. Oddly enough, despite all the cutting and slashing, this film doesn't ruin the story the way so many have. In fact, on a couple of points, the movie deals more realistically with the motivation certain characters have for what they do than the book does. (It also spends considerable time dealing with the issue of just how the temple in Jerusalem can be rebuilt without sparking a war with every Muslim country in the world.) There is also a very nice scene (not from the book) in which Bruce Barnes, the pastor who was not taken in the Rapture, is begging God for another chance.

On the other hand, there are some problems introduced. Buck Williams, the reporter, has changed from working for a disguised version of Newsweek to a disguised version of CNN. That makes sense on one level, because he produces on-screen reports which can fit nicely into the movie format, but he's still running around solo: no camera man, no sound man, no crew at all. He also doesn't seem to have to answer to anybody for his actions, unlike in the book, which recognised that even the most maverick reporter still has to please an editor. Then, too, Rayford Steele, the pilot, changes overnight from a skeptic to a preacher with a Bible under his arm. He knows all the answers, and all the moves. The book details the internal conflict he feels, going from not knowing or caring about Christianity except on the most superficial level to being very strongly motivated to witness to everybody he cares about, and yet feeling unworthy to speak about it, feeling that he doesn't know enough, and concerned lest he come on too strong and drive people away. None of that comes across on the screen.

In the end, just like most Christian fiction, I'm afraid that this is only going to appeal to believers, and not all of them. Partly because of the low budget and the patchy writing and acting, partly because it is definitely "preaching", and partly (let's be honest) because of the message, unbelievers are not likely to find it convincing.

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