The 2002 film, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, begins a week after the Rapture. I have to admit that it took me by surprise when they mentioned that only a week had passed since the events that kicked off the first Left Behind film because the action in the original film seemed to go on for a lot longer than week. I guess, if nothing else, that’s a lesson in the importance of keeping your film moving at a steady pace.
Speaking of pacing, Tribulation Force has a bit of quicker pace than the first film. Now that everyone knows what happened, Rayford Steele (Brad Johnson) and Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron) can jump into action and start working to try to thwart the evil plans of Nicolae Carpathia (Gordon Currie). Of course, at the start of the film, they’re told that it’s impossible to thwart the evil plans of Carpathia because the Bible has already predicted that he can’t be thwarted. However, the Bible has also predicated that people will still try so I guess Rayford and Buck really don’t have that much of a choice.
Both Buck and Rayford get minor subplots that are designed to bring some humanity to all of the apocalyptic melodrama. Rayford is still coming to terms with being left behind and struggling to forgive himself for not going to church with his wife and son. To give some credit where credit is due, Brad Johnson is this film’s secret weapon. He doesn’t really get to do much but Johnson brings just enough emotional reality to the role that his scenes have some depth that the rest of the film is missing.
As for Buck, he’s pursuing a tentative relationship with Rayford’s daughter, Chloe (Janaya Stephens). Unfortunately, he’s also letting his assistant Ivy crash at his apartment and when Chloe stops by and discovers Ivy wearing a towel and an engagement ring, she assumes the worst. Luckily, Buck’s able to say, “She’s my assistant” and that takes care of that.
Kirk Cameron is pretty much at the center of Tribulation Force, which is a problem because he’s totally miscast as a tough and respect journalist. Carpathia, who really should have known better seeing as how he’s the son of Satan and everything, decides to turn Buck into the public face of his global news channel. Unfortunately, there’s nothing about Kirk Cameron that suggests that any character he would play would ever have the gravitas or the charisma necessary to be the public face of any government. As in the first film, Cameron comes across as being extremely earnest and a little bit dull. He’s like the intern who accidentally screws up everyone’s lunch order.
Anyway, in Tribulation Force, everyone in the world loves Carpathia, even though he’s the most obviously evil dictator ever. (The Rapture left behind not just the nonbelievers but also the extremely stupid.) Carpathia announces the birth of a new world without borders and without religion. Buck and Rayford plan to televise an interview with the Two Witnesses, who are waiting at the Wailing Wall. But, to do that, they’re going to have to figure out a way to work around the fact that Carpathia controls all of the news channels….
Despite the fact that Tribulation Force is not as slow as the first film, the bulk of the film is still made up of people having long conversations about Biblical prophecy. Like a lot of early faith-based films, Tribulation Force gets bogged down in explaining its message as opposed to showing the audience what that message means. When Buck does finally reach the Wailing Wall, we do get to see some people get set on fire but, other than that, this is a very talky film. As well, Tribulation Force can’t ever seem to decide just how powerful and all-knowing Carpathia is supposed to be. At times, he has nearly supernatural powers and yet, at the same time, he’s totally incapable of seeing that Buck and Rayford are both plotting against him. Is Carpathia a victim of his own hubris or is it just bad plotting on the part of the film? I’ll leave it up to you decide.
Tribulation Force was followed by one more Left Behind film, World At War. I’ll review that one in about 15 minutes! Hope to see you then.