I step into a dimly lit theater, with thirty or forty other people all ready to watch an advance premier of Beyond the Mask, the second film put out by Burns Family Studios. Quick back-story on this group: They're basically a family who enjoys producing films. In their first endeavor, a wonderful film of similar style called Pendragon: Sword of His Father, the family built an entire Roman fort, and a full-scale trebuchet. While that film had the typical taste of a low-budget film, it did show promise, and had a decent story, and good acting. Well, after four years of production, the Burns have returned with an impressive fiction revolving around the Revolutionary War. Starring Andrew Cheney, John Rhys-Davies, Kara Killmer, and many others, this story follows William Reynolds (Cheney) , a mercenary for the East India Company, and his attempt at redemption and forgiveness. Kara Killmer plays the lovely Charlotte Holloway, and Rhys-Davies her evil uncle, Sir Charles Kemp.
Before I really get into the details of the film, I'd first like to say that I will not spoil the plot of the film, and also, please understand that this is a Christian film.
Score: Jurgen Beck is a German composer who has worked on several short films, such as Mitosis, Flight, and My Name is Paul. Bet you've never heard of those. Neither have I. His work on this film is exceptional. If you've ever heard the music from Assassin's Creed 3, then you will have an idea of what this movie sounds like. It's themes range from light British airs to the haunting notes of the fife, with some very well known classical thrown in. Personally, I walked out of the theater wishing that I owned the track.
Cinematography: Another no-name is brought to our attention with Ethan Ledden. His only other work of note is The Penny (another low-budget Christian film). In this film, he creates a beautiful piece for our eyes. Under Chad Burns' direction, a world is created that simply put resembles the movie Into the Woods. Now, obviously, this is no fairy-tale musical, but England especially shares a similar vibrance to the aforementioned movie. Now, this is certainly not the work of J.J. Abrams, or Steven Spielberg, but, the shots are clean, the action crisp, and the shots pop with color and detail.
Acting: Simply put, amazing. Andrew Cheney (Will Reynolds) had the audience captivated with his performance. Well, as captive as you can have an audience filled with homeschoolers. That aside, he was able to play an assassin, courtier, vicar, and revolutionary all in one role, and he performed beautifully. Part of Reynolds character is the web of lies he spins around him, and the masks he puts on. Cheney played each part well, while still keeping the true character underneath. He and Kara Killmer truly had chemistry. Both were very good at playing off of each other, and both did an excellent job. John Rhys-Davies as always is phenomenal, and in this film, we see him play a cold-hearted monster. Kids, this isn't the lovable dwarf of Lord of the Rings. This is a calculating, niece-punching (sorry, spoiler) villain, and Rhys-Davies is golden. All of the other lead and supporting cast did very well, with an exceptional performance of Benjamin Franklin by Alan Madlane (The Man Who Collected Food, P.I. Blues). Honestlty, the only poor job was John Arden McClure's mediocre rendition of George Washington, which fortunately played but a small part in the film.
Story: You likely have heard the name Paul McCusker, if you travel in Christian circles. He has written many books, and has helped with several Christian films. He, along with the Burns wrote the story for this film. I found it consistently interesting. Rarely, if ever, did I think that it dragged. The action was adequate, but never gratuitous. That really could sum up the whole story-line. Nothing done just for the sake of doing. The romance was natural, the message was not over-done, and the humor subtle. As far as what it was like, it resembled National Treasure as far as the potentiality of the situation. Everything in the film that I might have thought was utter nonsense and fictitious was clearly explained as plausible during the credits.
In conclusion, this was an amazing film. Certainly no masterpiece like The Dark Knight, or Lord of the Rings, but, it could hold its own with many films coming out of the corporate industry. This film wins for both the fact that it's basically made by one family, and that it is just a good film. Yes, it's Christian, and there is a Christian message in it, but, I didn't think "Christian historical fantasy" when I watched it. I thought, "historical fantasy". It is evidence that something can be made from a certain viewpoint, but not be preachy. This film is simply a good film. Well worth watching, with a great story of redemption and forgiveness. If you are looking for something a little more high brow than Fast and Furious 7 (that isn't too hard to find), that's good for the entire family, but still a high-quality film, then check out the website here, where you can find out more about the film, and hopefully find tickets for an advance premier near you. If not, then get excited for its release on DVD, whenever that is. This film has broken new ground, both in quality, and in style, and I hope that you will give this movie a chance: you might find a new favorite.