Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
importance of closeness to God—“Sometimes he speaks of God as a distant acquaintance, not a close friend.”
true freedom that can only be found in Christ
importance of spiritual redemption—“Only God can give us new lives” / “I have strived in vain to redeem my name. But God, in His mercy, He has done the work I could never do. He's redeemed my name and given me His.”
importance of human liberty
early history in the American Colonies
|Featuring:||Andrew Cheney … William Reynolds
John Rhys-Davies … Charles Kemp
Kara Killmer … Charlotte Holloway
Adetokumboh M'Cormack … Joshua Brand
Steve Blackwood … Richard Harrison
Thomas D. Mahard … Doctor Harrow
Marc Bowers … Fourth Soldier
Carl Harry Carlson … Delegate
Samrat Chakrabarti … Basil
Connie Craig … Mrs. Thompson
Jennifer Dixon … Mrs. Witherspoon
Dennis Doyle Jr. … King Henry VIII
Michael Ellison … Abraham Wick
|Director:||Chad Burns—“Pendragon: Sword of His Father” (2009)|
|Producer:||Burns Family Studios
Kiran Bhakta Joshi
The year is 1775, and the mercenary Will Reynolds (Andrew Cheney) has had enough of killing on the behalf of Charles Kemp (John Rhys-Davies) of the British East India Company to last a lifetime, and he tells Kemp as much after the completion of his latest deadly midnight mission. Unfortunately, Kemp is not willing to just let him retire and offers him instead a place in helping him build a power base in the American colonies. But William rejects his offer and earns Kemp’s wrath—immediately ordering his death.
Narrowly escaping Kemp’s trap, with no survivors to tell otherwise, Reynolds assumes the identity of a just appointed Vicar. Settling into his new role, he finds himself drawn to the simple life, as well as the charms of the kind-hearted and graceful Charlotte Holloway (Kara Killmer). The sins of the past have a way of catching up to him, and, though the two are soon separated, they both find themselves in the New World’s colony known as Philadelphia—Reynolds beside his new friend Ben Franklin, played with affable wisdom by Alan Madlane and Charlotte who is under the protection of her powerful uncle, the unscrupulous Charles Kemp.
As the eve of American independence draws nigh, Kemp does his best to foment havoc and ruin upon the American rebels, while Will seeks to earn himself a new name, one of honor as the masked “Highwayman,” righter of wrongs, protector of the innocent, but most of all—American patriot. “Beyond The Mask” captures well a sense of “Revolutionary era” America and the noble character of many of the players is both refreshing and inspiring. A Christian dramatization that is remarkably light on sermons, it still manages to convey some very positive messaging amidst an exciting and alternately romantic backdrop, with very few areas of concern.
Language: None. The Producers, Burns Family Studios, have made it a point to keep the language fit for all audiences and the name of the Lord, when used, is always done in honor and not in vain.
Violence: Moderate. While people are shot from a distance, as well as up close, and fighting is done with swords, knives and blunt objects, no gore is shown, and blood is barely present, and when it is, it’s never in the case of fatalities. People are crushed and killed by falls, but these incidents are offscreen, so impacts are only implied. Some men are knocked seemingly unconscious in the water, which could mean their death, though they are not seen again. The most jarring death involves a man being electrocuted, but this scene alone should be of concern to parents of small children. The violence is the only reason for the film’s PG rating.
Sex/Nudity: Minor. The kissing that occurs is romantic and is an end to itself. Genuine love appears behind this and not lust. The respect and cordiality between the genders reflect the mores of the times and are aptly portrayed here.
As in life itself, the more prominent messaging is derived from how we live our lives, and the film’s three main characters are defined by what they believe and how they live it out.
Greed/Avarice/Deceit—The central villain Charles Kemp, as played with relish by John Rhys-Davies, practically emanates malice when amongst his minions, yet shows righteous indignation in public, in other words he is the consummate politician. In addition to his own personal demons, he is not above encouraging others to lie and bear false testimony to further his own ends, which the Word of God specifically addresses numerous times, most notably in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:16) and in Proverbs:
“There are six things which Jehovah hateth; Yea, seven which are an abomination unto him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood; A heart that deviseth wicked purposes, Feet that are swift in running to mischief, A false witness that uttereth lies, And he that soweth discord among brethren.” Proverbs 6:16-19
Humility/Respect for elders—Will has never met anyone like Charlotte before, but no sooner than he finishes saying how kind and compassionate she is, she counters by stating she is not worthy of such praise, despite the fact that her demeanor shows the grace that her humility has blessed her with. When Charlotte begins to become enamored with Will, still under the guise of a vicar, though her heart is clearly drawn to him, she defers any major life decisions to her uncle, as our Father in heaven asks us to.
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’” —1 Peter 5:5
Redemption—The major theme that permeates throughout the film is Will’s search for redemption which changes and assumes new dimensions as the film and his life progresses. Having lost Charlotte, he strikes a deal with God and swears, “God, if you help me redeem my name, I will lay aside revenge and show Charlotte I can change because of her.” Obviously this is only a first step, and though the focus is not toward God, his change of heart has now begun by doing a God-honoring action.
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” —Romans 12:19
Will’s quest for redemption continues when he dons a mask and becomes the avenger known as “The Highwayman.” Yet, even his acts of heroism cannot erase the doubts that beleaguer him. Recognizing his terrible past he asks Charlotte if she believes in redemption to which she replies, “I believe in forgiveness.” The conscience of the film, Charlotte speaks truth as inspired by the Word of God.
Will feels the next day may be his last and admits, “I will get what I deserve tomorrow,” and, in response, he is told that, “Actually, someone else already got what you deserved,” alluding to the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ that, for those of us who acknowledge Him as Lord, has changed us forever.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” —2 Corinthians 5:17
An enjoyable, humorous, and, at times, thrilling movie, “Beyond The Mask” does have a few shortcomings, among them the insanely quick transitions of Will’s character from dark mercenary, to gentleman vicar, to American patriot to finally masked avenger. Likewise, the romance of Will and Charlotte seems at times overly dramatic, if not a bit awkward, but, in retrospect, this might be attributed to the simpler times that were the 1700s. Only in a few scenes did budget limitations seem noticeable (i.e., camera work, blocking of actors), but they did not hamper the film’s pacing, and they were easily overshadowed by some of the more intense action scenes, the highlight of which featured a roof-top chase similar in style to “The Matrix” or “Assassins Creed,” as well as an ending as dramatic as it was explosive.
Fine acting performances all around, led by fan favorite John Rhys-Davies, and backed by a surprisingly good soundtrack, “Beyond The Mask” exceeded my expectations for a Christian adventure film and, frankly, made for a delightful movie that I highly recommend for most audiences.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor
For more information, see our Christian Film News article about this movie.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.