Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Movie Review: Beyond the Mask

Beyond the Mask is the latest film from Burns Family Studios, directed and produced by Chad and Aaron Burns.  I had the opportunity to pre-screen it last weekend, so here is my review.

Short version: I loved it!  I had high expectations for this film, and I’m happy to say that they were more than satisfied!  You should buy tickets right now!
 “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.” –from the movie website
Story

The screenplay for the film was written by Paul McCusker, who has worked on both Adventures in Odyssey and Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre.  I found the story to be both engaging and compelling.

I particularly appreciated the balance and unity between different aspects of the film.  Action films sometimes suffer from too much action with too little plot to hold it together, but not this one.  There is plenty of action stemming from Will’s ongoing conflict with his former employer, as well as his attempts to thwart the plots against American independence, but the action sequences fit with and enhance the rest of the story.  There are important internal conflicts going on, which demand screen time and character development, and the makers of the film give those parts of the story the attention they deserve without allowing the pace to drag. 

I was also impressed with how tightly woven the storyline was.  The inner conflicts dealt with by the major characters arise naturally and unavoidably from what is happening around them.  These conflicts in turn lead to actions that become indispensable to the story.  Every incident drives the plot forward; I can’t remember a single scene that was superfluous to the overall plot line. 

There is really something for everyone here: action, romance, history, even some science, and a dash of humor.

Themes

Can a man overcome the consequences of a sordid past and lead a new life?  Is it possible for a sinner to truly change, or is any attempt just a mask over his real identity?  These are the questions that Will Reynolds faces throughout the film.  In the process, several themes emerge.

-The blackness of sin.  The guilt of Will’s past is real, and the film acknowledges that he deserves all the trouble that it brings on him.

-The sinfulness of man-centered “goodness”.  This was a depth of insight that I wasn’t expecting.  When Will decides to regain the honor of his name, he becomes a vigilante defender of freedom, coming to the unexpected aid of the innocent and oppressed.  He is lauded as a hero, but all the while he is only acting for his own honor in the hopes of reestablishing his reputation and gaining the love of Charlotte Holloway.  He does much that appears “good”, but his selfishness is clearly demonstrated and nearly costs him everything.

-The futility of making another person our hope or our standard of goodness.  When Will first professes his love for Charlotte, he makes it clear that he views her as his only hope for being able to live a new life.  She becomes his single-minded pursuit and sole motive for living honorably.  Instead of earning her love, his selfish motives only further demonstrate his unworthiness of her love.

-The undeserved gift of love, forgiveness, and redemption.  The climax of Will’s internal struggle comes when he realizes that his efforts to change himself and earn his own redemption have failed.  We catch a glimpse of both the gift of redemption and its cost—we cannot earn it, but it is only available to us because Christ earned it on our behalf.  This is the only way to true freedom, and the only way that Will, like the rest of us, can receive a new identity, unstained by the sins of his past.

Quality

I don’t have the expertise to thoroughly judge the technical quality of this film.  I usually only notice cinematography, music, lighting, and such if there is something that distracts me from the more important elements of action and story.  There was very little to distract in Beyond the Mask, so I would say that these technical aspects served the story well. 

The acting was excellent.  Andrew Cheney (Will Reynolds) and John Rhys-Davies (the villain Charles Kemp) particularly stand out for the great depth they brought to their characters.  There were several memorable secondary characters who helped bring the story to life, most noteworthy perhaps being Alan Madlane as Benjamin Franklin.

In Conclusion

I highly recommend this film.  It was an exciting adventure with memorable characters, an engaging story, and a thought-provoking message.

Beyond the Mask is coming out by a theater-on-demand model, which means that every showing must reach a minimum number of reserved tickets in order to be confirmed.  TICKETS MUST BE RESERVED IN ADVANCE.  Join us at the showing in Tomball! 

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