Tour-bulation de Force

Left Behind II: Tribulation Force is the jewel of the extremely-bejeweled, three-part – and hopefully counting – Left Behind franchise. It chronicles the story of Buck Williams, a renegade journalist living in a world where millions have suddenly and without notice disappeared, and those left behind – the “leftovers” if you will (and I know you will, Mr. Lindelof) – are forced to reckon with this existence.

To the casual watcher, LBII:TF is nothing more than a brilliantly written, character driven, coming of age action adventure slash rom com. However, more discerning viewers on a fourth or fifth watch may begin to sense the very subtle religious themes undergirding the movie.  Writers John Patus and Paul Lalonde seamlessly weave a robust story, heavy themes, deep characters, and wit throughout the 94 minute rollercoaster of emotion that transcends all fundamental (aka boring!) screenplay principles.

In a post-Rapture Earth, Mr. Williams appears to take on the mantle of hero. But as he fights for all that is right, the audience cannot ignore one glaring fact:

He’s still here.

And if he’s still here that can only mean one thing:

Maybe he’s not as good as we’ve been lead to believe.

While a full character study of Mr. Williams is well beyond the scope of this piece (and more suited for a doctoral dissertation if you ask me!), a superficial exploration of his dark side is warranted.

This dark side reveals itself in one particular scene: Mr. Williams receives a call from Rayford Steele, father of Chloe. Mr. Williams expresses his concerns for Ms. Steele and asks if he can visit their home. When Mr. Steele affirms the idea, Mr. Williams replies: “I’m already on my way.” By using the word “already,” Mr. Williams explicitly conveys that he is, in fact, en route to the Steele residence. But he isn’t. He’s still at his desk. See:

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And yes, it’s tempting to conclude from this that Mr. Williams is pure evil, an unredeemable soul destined to walk this forsaken planet until his miserable death. Even yours truly fell into this well-laid trap, expertly placed by writers slash masterminds Messrs. Patus and Lalonde. But as with all great stories, LBII:TF forces you to suspend your disbelief in Mr. Williams himself, as his story of redemption plays out before your very own eyes, ears, mind, body and soul.

It’s only a matter of 41 minutes of time before Mr. Williams meets face to face with Nicolae Carpathia, a complex, non-traditional antagonist whose motives are difficult to parse. This is done intentionally to create at best a murky understanding of the “sides” of this “battle,” a stubborn refusal to give the audience a clear party to root for. Granted, Mr. Carpathia is referred to as the “anti-Christ” and, to paraphrase, “the most evil being that has ever eviled,” but what is he really about. As with life, often the answers aren’t so obvious.

Even in the darkest of times, humanity always manages to find the light. Almost always, that light is love. As it states in One Corinthians 13: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” The relationship between Mr. Williams and Ms. Steele crescendos to such an epic form of love, embodied in this incredible exchange:

CHLOE 

“Do you feel like a cookie?”

BUCK

“Why do you I look like one?”

The two laugh and share a knowing look. Specifically, they know that Mr. Williams isn’t an actual cookie, in appearance or emotional capacity.

Yet it is us, the audience, that wishes it knew a love like this. In keeping with this film’s consistent and almost too coherent theme, LBII:TF once again exposes us to maximum human potential. At first, we saw ultimate evil and now we bear witness to ultimate good: pure love.

In sum, if you don’t watch this movie, it’s you who will be left behind. And tell your friends or they’ll be left behind, too.

———————————

This bet was part of a savage credit card faceoff where the loser had to pay for the bill and do a book report.

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