Interested in swashbuckling adventure that is suitable for a family audience that is friendly to a Christian worldview? Frankly, it is difficult to find much coming out of Hollywood that fits that description. I am no movie critic, but I am encouraged when I see creative efforts to break out of the Hollywood mainstream in independent film making that try to tell a good story that touches on the themes of the Gospel. The more people support these type of films, the more chances you will see better films made in the future.
Beyond the Mask is a new movie that is part-action adventure, part-history lesson, part-patriotic plug, and part-Gospel centered. Set during the era at the beginning of the American Revolution, a resourceful young man who finds himself enmeshed in the dark underworld of corrupt, crony capitalism is seeking redemption to restore the goodness of his name, but who ends up discovering romance, the spirit of American liberty, and a relationship with Jesus Christ in the process. You can think of it as Tom Cruise with special effects and lots of fights between the good guys and the bad guys.
Sure, a film from an alternative studio like this will not have the latest, super-expensive Star Wars effects, but I was actually surprised and pleased at how good they were. Critics complain that such films are nothing more than evangelical propaganda, but these days, it really is almost impossible to find any film that is not propagandistic in some form or another. The question is: what message are these movies promoting?
True, some might find the swashbuckling a bit too much for very young audiences, and the storyline does comes off as a bit predictable and fantastic in places (a Guy Fawkes plot using an invention by Benjamin Franklin with anachronistic bombing technology??). But hey, the film is great fun, and you do not have to worry about some anti-Christian agenda undermining what you are trying to teach your kids. Much like last year’s historical fiction Alone Yet Not Alone, Beyond the Mask is a fun story that will also hopefully inspire a young generation to gain a better appreciation for history. Forget Left Behind and go for this film instead. My wife and I went to the see the film last week as part of a Williamsburg, Virginia homeschooling community effort to bring in Christian film to local movie theatres, and we had a great time.
Produced by Burns Family Studios, essentially an outfit run by evangelical homeschoolers, Beyond the Mask was written by Paul McCusker, a creative writer behind Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey (see this review). This Patheos film blog review by Kenneth Moreland I found helpful and this interview with the Burns family.
Showing in the Williamsburg area (Newport News) at the Kiln Creek Cinema 20 for one week beginning June 5.