From the moment I saw the trailer (below), I knew I wanted to see Beyond the Mask. A lifelong fan of the action-adventure genre, I have been waiting many years for this kind of movie to hit the Christian film space. Trust me, the three-minute trailer will have you buying your tickets right away! As Christian filmmakers have wrestled with the optimal theatrical release modely, films like Beyond the Mask have tried new theater-on-demand models like Gathr. So when Beyond the Mask broke records with its launch in April, the next obvious step was a full-blown, traditional theatrical release. And it's here now...opening June 5!
A top assassin for the British East India Company, Will Reynolds would like to take his money and run. When he requests his promised payment in land rights, his crooked employer instead arranges for his death and labels him the scapegoat for his company’s unsavory dealings. But Will secretly survives and takes on an ironic new identity: a town vicar. Learning the ways of a man of faith is not easy, but the lovely and charming Charlotte makes it easier. However, when his façade is revealed, the love of his life is torn from him. Now, Will must choose between reinvention, redemption, and revenge. Or can he have it all?
Beyond the Mask is an enticing mashup of Indiana Jones, National Treasure, The Arrow, and the Bible. It blends up the best elements of action, history, masked crusaders and redemption into a spiritual adventure smoothie! I’ve seen the film twice now and admittedly, I spent the first viewing just following the action. “What’s going to happen next?” was in the forefront of my mind the whole time. I picked up a few thematic elements here and there, and saw some of the efforts toward character development. Mostly, though, I was concerned about putting together all the details, facts, and events so that I could predict the ending. It’s a marvelous thing that I never could!
The second viewing gave me the down time I needed to discover all of the homework screenwriter Paul McKusker had done to create a character-driven action film. Rather than being pushed into critical decisions by accidental events, out of control natural disasters, or a bully villain that keeps him on the run from the get-go, Will Reynolds creates his own crises. It’s the perfect storm for creating a character that people care about. We want Will to escape. We want him to beat the bad guy. We want him to get the girl, save the revolution, and live happily ever after. But one thing stops him time and time again…his attempts to earn his own redemption. He keeps trying to recreate himself, improve himself, and finally make himself worthy.
Honestly, Beyond the Mask handles the issue of salvation better than ninety percent of Christian films I have EVER seen. Salvation is not an idea that gets tacked onto the end of the film in a cheesy conversion scene with a supporting character. It’s also not the entire end game of the story. (Oh look, Will Reynolds is converted! Now we can wrap it up!) However, the need to understand free salvation is organic to Will’s story, through and through. He begins chasing redemption from the moment he announces his retirement from the East India Company. He so badly wants to be the man he always wanted to be, and he tries everything within his reach to get there. And in good story style, every attempt to redeem his name creates a new crisis that takes him farther and farther from his goal. He just can’t reach that brass ring. That’s when grace comes in.