Written for the Period Drama Challenge hosted by Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm. ❤
Beyond the Mask (2015, PG, 105 minutes)
written by Paul McCusker and starring John Rhys Davies
Let's be perfectly honest. Christians movies get a bum rap. Sometimes it's a well-deserved razzing. Just because you have an idea for a Christian movie doesn't mean you're qualified to make it. Badly done Christian films are out there and I avoid them whenever possible. Which means I can tell the difference between a good Christian movie and a bad one.
Sometimes, though, Christian films are better than I ever anticipated. Such is the case with Beyond the Mask. This film's production budget was roughly $2 million dollars which is microscopically tiny when compared to all the superhero films being dished out today that somehow require at least $250 million in order to function. And yet Beyond the Mask manages to be a cohesive, enjoyable, family-friendly, not-overly-preachy Christian film that also fits itself into the genre of a period film. Sort of like Amazing Grace.
The razzing Beyond the Mask has received, the low ratings on IMDB by reviewers, etc. is unjustified. I actually had a much longer rant written here, but decided against posting it. Just know that if you watch this movie with an open mind then it will enchant you. Don't be close-minded.
And now on to the movie itself!
❤ The Plot ❤
The leading mercenary for the British East India Company, Will Reynolds has just been double-crossed and now is on the run in the American Colonies. Working to redeem his name and win back the affections of the woman with whom he's never been fully truthful, Will now hides behind a new mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer (John Rhys Davies). As his past life closes in on him, Will must somehow gain the trust and the help of his beloved Charlotte - as well as Ben Franklin - while he races against time to defuse a plot of historical proportions. As Will Reynolds discovers, if we let true freedom ring, history can be redeemed!
(Note, I borrowed this synopsis from the film website)
❤ The Good Bits ❤
Because you know, every movie, Christian or not, has good bits and not so good bits. I fully acknowledge that fact, and so I'm happy to cover both.
Really, the best thing is how I never felt that this movie was low budget. The scenery was stunning as were the special effects. The soundtrack was nice and subtle, there, but not overpowering. Guiding the story in ways that evoked images of National Treasure or Pirates of the Caribbean. In good ways, mind you.The costuming was stunning, more modest than a lot of costumes would have been in the 1770s, but I liked that. I hate decollete on women and find it very distracting so I'm always happy when necklines are cut just a tad more modest than would have been historically accurate.
And then there's the acting. You would never have known these were not professional actors. Of course, the Burns Family were incredibly fortunate to hire John Rhys Davies. Every Christian film really needs at least one semi-big name in order to make the movie slightly more visible to the masses. And he was a great choice for William's former employer. And he actually has a fairly substantial role, which I appreciated too. But the "big name" aside, Andrew Cheney who played William and then Kara Killmer as Charlotte were both excellent! They even possessed all the chemistry you would hope to find in a couple falling in love. It was delightful to watch them because they actually sold me the love story.
Ooh, and then there's the action sequences! And there are quite a few of those. Wow, what energy and choreography must have gone into them to make them so convincing. I felt like I was watching a bigger budget film like Pirates of the Caribbean. They really worked hard on those scenes and it shows.
Finally, there's always the warm fuzzy you get when someone realizes that their own strength is never actually enough. That they need to rely on Someone else in order to change. The Christian message is fairly subtle in Beyond the Mask, but it is still there, and it was heartwarming to watch William, who was masquerading as a vicar, actually come to genuine faith. I loved that.
❤ The Not So Good Bits ❤
My sister is a historian and so every once in awhile during our viewing she would dig through her autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and point out a discrepancy in his whereabouts. Because yes, they used Franklin as a character. She never bought the performance from Alan Madlane and I must agree that he seemed a little lackluster for such a larger-than-life character like Ben Franklin. So that character was a little bit of a weak point. Fortunately, he was only a secondary character.
Also, the story moves along at a fast clip. It would probably have served itself better if it had been a 3 part miniseries instead, but I know that was likely an impossible option. So, you go from him masquerading as a vicar, to months passing in a few seconds, to him going to America, to Charlotte following him with her uncle, etc. All in the span of 105 minutes of screen time. So yes, it did feel a little bit rushed, but oh well, that's not enough reason for me to have not enjoyed it.
❤ Final Thoughts ❤
Beyond the Mask seriously impressed me. I never imagined that a Christian production company would be able to successfully create a period piece, but this one worked. It's a delightful, family-friendly, adventure romp in the Colonial era. It even has some steampunk aspects to it, which I found utterly fascinating, as did my entire family. I loved it, my sister loved it, and so did our parents. Historic discrepancies aside, this is an excellent and fun period film that I easily recommend to anyone and everyone who enjoys cleaner entertainment.
And now I'm going to keep an eye on Burns Family Studios in the hope that they keep trying, keep bettering themselves, and keep delivering quality Christian entertainment. Heaven knows we need more of it in the world today!