Sunday, January 31, 2016

Period Film Challenge - Beyond the Mask (2015)

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!

11 yorum:

  1. I'll have to give this one a rental. I knew it existed, but Christian + Costume Drama made me wonder about the quality. :P

    1. I know, you wouldn't really think to put those 2 categories together. But somehow Christian costume drama works for this, really well. It's not up to the same standard as Amazing Grace, but is still very good.

  2. Enjoyed your review!! We actually have a family friend (well, a friend of a friend -- you know, we see each other at social functions etc.) who worked on the film and was an extra in it as well. And then we were able to help bring it to a local theater the first time we saw it, which was fun. :)

    Have you seen the Burns family's first film, Pendragon? Here's a link for it:

    (And I hadn't thought of it, but maybe I could do a review of that one for the film challenge! :))

    1. Heidi, how neat you know someone who worked on the film! What a fun bit of trivia! I do wish I'd been more active when I learned of its release, trying to see it opening night, etc. I'm not even sure it made it to Colorado Springs. So sad.

      My library doesn't have Pendragon so I may end up purchasing a copy. It looks fascinating!

      And yes, I do think it would work for the period drama challenge. The more I think about it, the more options I'm coming up with that would work with the criteria. It's kind of exciting!

  3. Well, between you and Heidi, clearly I'm going to have to see this movie. And since my lame-o library doesn't have it, I'm going to have to buy it, aren't I.

    1. Well, I do hope you enjoy it when you get a chance to see it! My expectations were fairly low, so it really impressed me. I find going in with low expectations usually helps with how much I'll like a film.

    2. So true. I went into The Force Awakens very sure I was going to be disappointed by it. And then I wasn't so it was doubly awesome!

  4. Sounds like a good movie - wonder if my library has it? I've always like John Rhys Davies too.

    1. It is a terrific movie, not perfect, but still really awesome for what it is.

  5. Great review! I have mixed feelings about this movie myself ;D I simultaneously loved and disliked it, but overall I liked it :) Again, really great review! If I may ask, how exactly do you get those heart icons in a post?

    1. Interesting, now I'm curious what you disliked. I didn't like the makeup for the heroine, and I felt the story was a bit rushed, like how fast they get from the UK to the US, but then again their time was limited so there's was much else they could do.

      I'll find the link to my heart icons when I got home from work tonight and post it on your blog. There's a lot of really neat icons on this one website, but I use the heart the most, as you can tell! :)


Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!