When a war is declared as ‘over’ most people visualize an immediate end of hostilities. That somehow the moment the men in suits sign the papers that everyone immediately stops shooting, stops bombing, stops killing. Instant Peace, just add signatures. The truth of the matter is a far different thing.
We have all heard stories of the lone holdout, the soldier or battalion who continued to fight for years after a war has ended. What most people don’t consider is that most ends to a war can not be boiled down to a single date, that after a war ends there are still pockets of soldiers on all sides who refuse to lay down their arms, who refuse to believe that the conflict they have known for so long is now over. This is where our story begins. Sydney Baker (Chris Walters) is a young British soldier who has never actually seen the front lines. Sent on a mission to help ‘clean up’ pockets of Nazi resistance, Sydney soon finds himself alone and afraid behind enemy lines. Soon he runs into William Summers (Jackson Berlin) who is an American Soldier with what appears to be a death-wish, hellbent on claiming as many German lives as he can before he dies. Together they fight their way out of German occupied territory on what could be a final suicide mission. Directed by Jason Mills, this is a story of survival in the final days of one of the biggest wars in human history
I have always been a fan of war movies. From classic films like The Great Escape and Where Eagles Dare to even modern films like Dunkirk, I find a well made war film to be irresistible. So when I was presented with the opportunity to review Jason Mills’ new film, Beyond the Line, I could not pass it up. Thankfully, I was not dissapointed.
Beyond the Line is a pretty straight forward film, not wasting any time on superfluous moments or unnecessary narrative choosing instead to focus on the matter at hand, survival behind enemy lines. Running at just over an hour, not a single moment is wasted in the narrative giving us nearly perfect beats throughout with a fairly impressive pacing. It is rare to see a filmmaker edit their work down to the essentials and still manage to tell a quality story but Mills manages to pull it off well. Of course this can’t be done without a solid cast and Mills has just that in Chris Walters and Jackson Berlin.
Both relative unknowns, having done mostly smaller roles in film and television, it was nice to get a chance to see Walters and Berlin have a chance to take the leads in a feature film. The two are fantastic, fully embodying two very different views of the same war. For Sydney Baker (Walters) is a British soldier who only wants to get home. He has no desire to kill and never imagined being on the front lines. Walters manages to bring a realism to the fear and uncertainty this young soldier has as he is forced to grow up on the battlefield of a war that was meant to have come to an end. On the flip side we have American Soldier William Summers (Berlin) who embodies the brash attitude so closely associated with American Soldiers. He is angry and ready for a fight but finds something in Baker that makes him want to keep the young soldier alive. Sure, they come across as rather stereotypical at times but the two really do a great job at making their characters believable and relatable. I can see them both breaking out soon and frankly, they deserve it.
While he hasn’t broken into the mainstream yet, Jason Mills has started making his mark in the horror genre with films like They Came From The Attic and 3 Hours till Dead. With his focus on horror, it was a shock to see him tackle a historical film about World War II but honestly, I think he has found his calling. For an independent film, Beyond the Line is a well produced and visually appealing film that feels like a quality History Channel film. While not quite big screen ready the makings are all there. One aspect that pulls it back from greatness though, is the score and overall sound design.
Now don’t get me wrong, the score is quite good but many times the music doesn’t quite fit and even tends to overpower the action on the film. There are even points where the score over-modulates a bit causing some easily avoidable distortion. A film score should complement the film by adding to the narrative but not overwhelm it. In many ways it feels like composer Thomas Beckman was trying to compose a score for a much larger film than he was working on, causing the music to overpower the film at nearly every intense moment. Had they toned back on the score, keeping it more of a subtle player than one that constantly tried to upstage the actors, it would have fine.
One other aspect that nearly derails the narrative is the spontaneous narration of the film at odd moments in the form of Sydney Baker telling his story. . While actor Chris Walters does a fine job at the narration,In many ways it felt odd and out of place, making it a very unnecessary tool in this film. Had this narration been tied into a specific scene or moment establishing who he was telling the story to, it may have worked, but for this film, it tends to take you out of the moment each and every time.
The Bottom Line
Overall, this is an excellent story of survival behind enemy lines. With believable characters, a simple story and excellent visuals, Beyond The Line is a quality war film and one I am happy to have seen. While it did have a few issues, those minor nits were not enough to completely derail the film. I hope that we get to see more of this sort of work from Jason Mills as I would love to see what he could do with a bigger budget. Mills has talent and hopefully this catches the eye of one of the major studios.
Beyond The Line is distributed through Vision Films and is now available across all major cable platforms, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu, Vimeo, Amazon, and FandangoNow for an SRP $4.99 – $9.99 Rent or Buy and to on DVD for $12.99 from all major retailers.
Late To The Game 6/30/2019
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