Spanning across continents, set in the Revolutionary War era, Beyond the Mask impressed me with its not-too-preachy message of redemption, its strong and beautiful romance amidst consistent action and its astounding effects and sets (for a $1 million budget.)
I stumbled upon it this afternoon when a friend wanted to go see a movie. I have recently seen four movies currently in theaters so I mentioned this one. After looking at reviews, we decided to check it out. My friend is in a laid back exploratory phase of her religious convictions so when the previews advertised preachy films, I felt bad. I had inadvertently led my friend and myself into a Christian-made film.
I braced myself for a slew of unnecessary references to the cross, constant discussion of the afterlife and a practically platonic approach to romance. I received none of those. Instead I was launched into a world reminiscent of some of my favorite movies. And not unlike those movies, there was redemption for a villain, this time redemption I’ve known to last.
I say quite a few things on this site in question of my church-guided faith. I think a lot about the way I was raised and have struggled to recognize those places where my faith was coaxed rather than felt, forced rather than accepted. In doing this, I have tended to indict and convict Christianity more than uphold its truths in my writing. But it should be said that this movie resonated with me and that faith, deep belief that God is real and working and that He loves every single person on this earth, propels my very existence.
I roll my eyes at Christian obsession with changing the world media to be honoring to God. I honestly do not believe anything is at stake there. By getting so distracted with changing world media, we rarely create our own things. We have to stop thinking of ourselves as a persecuted class and join the world in living. We ought to recognize that there is much more to life than quoting Scripture.
This is why the movie was refreshing. It didn’t shove itself in your face. The advertising quoted a verse but the movie itself never did. It simply showed redemption from a Christian perspective and brought to mind favorites like Les Miserables, Count of Monte Cristo and Pirates of the Carribean.
The romance was clean but not without chemistry and tension, her desire to love a man who loves God was something I can totally understand. Still, her conviction did not run over the plot or raise her up on a pedestal throughout the movie. Moreover, the thing that made her attractive was her kindness, grace and determination to do something to stop cruelty from having the upper hand. What made him attractive besides his generally gorgeous exterior was his desire to thwart darkness, to learn and to be a new man.
Though this movie seems to have fallen through the cracks with other moviegoers and critics, I thought it was very well done and it reminded me of something I’ve steadily started to lose. I am Christian. And I am very proud of that fact. I simply believe my Christianity is more about how I treat those in my path now than it is about what I will earn in my future. As it pertains to story and film, Christianity is so beautiful when nuanced and it’s so awesome when it’s a whisper in the wind rather than a blaring advertisement, when you almost miss its message but something sinks into your spirit and makes you smile, makes you remember there’s a God.
We forget that we are not at war with the world. We are at war with darkness, with Satan. Light has overcome the darkness, even the smallest of lights can pierce the darkness, whether it comes with screaming sirens or complete silence.
This is a nearly unexplored territory for Christians, the action/adventure film. We have so much we could begin to explore throughout history. I for one would love to see a Dietrich Bonhoeffer movie with the redemptive/rebellious atmosphere of Amazing Grace and the latest Beyond the Mask. I’m excited to see these sorts of projects happening. Not so much for world redemption (I truly think Jesus has that covered, plus total conversion of the world seems a bit like world domination, not everybody needs revival) but so that Christians can learn about themselves and see that the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil approach does not work in storytelling. It’s entirely okay and wonderful to enjoy action movies and history and things that don’t always have the “Christ” approval stamp on them. We’d do well to realize he probably approves more than we think.