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A teenage surfer girl summons the courage to go back into the ocean after losing an arm in a shark attack.
For more about Soul Surfer and the Soul Surfer Blu-ray release, see Soul Surfer Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 1, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Branscombe Richmond, Kevin Sorbo, Ross Thomas
Director: Sean McNamara
» See full cast & crew
Soul Surfer Blu-ray Review
One arm, one set of footprints, one well-lived life.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 1, 2011
You can do all things through Him who gives you strength.
Life sucks. It's a fact. Bad things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. Evil doesn't discriminate, it doesn't pick and choose. No matter what one does, who one is, where they live, how much money they have, or who they call "friend," evil spreads and wraps its tentacles, in one way or another, around all who exist. Maybe evil slowly squeezes the life out of someone during a long battle with disease. Perhaps a sudden tragedy turns a life upside down. No matter the relative speed or power with which evil strikes, know that it's lurking and waiting for the right moment to attack, to tear down lives, to test a mettle, to challenge a faith. It's a truth that's plagued man since one unfortunate bite of the wrong apple off the wrong tree, and no, it's not going anywhere. But there's something out there that can counter evil and turn that "life sucks" mantra into something far and away greater than anything that should exist, and it may be found within each and every soul on this earth. Even the most life-altering, tear-jerking, physically-harmful, emotionally-draining, and spirit-crushing evil can't overcome a belief in oneself, the inner strength to overcome, and the faith in God to help see through even the most debilitating or hopeless of circumstances. That's the essence of Soul Surfer, the beautifully moving and ever-uplifting tale of a young girl who overcomes a devastating tragedy to not only live her life more fully and win her dreams in spite of her battle with evil, but to turn evil on its head and use her triumph for an even greater good beyond her own personal recovery, redemption, and success.
Life is an adventure.
Native Hawaiian Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) has it all -- good looks, a great family, close friends, and one heck of a knack for surfing, the latter inherited from her beach bum parents who were themselves in their primes two of the top surfers around. She and her brothers have been raised in a good Christian environment, and she's going to need all of the spiritual guidance and unflinching love and support she can muster when tragedy suddenly strikes. As she and a few friends are out catching the waves on a remote corner of Hawaii's shore, the unthinkable happens. A shark suddenly and without provocation tears Bethany's left arm from her body. Her quick-thinking friends manage to secure the wound until help arrives, but it's all the doctors can do to save her life. She'll have to go on without her arm, but even as she comes to terms with her sudden transformation, she refuses to let go of her passion for surfing. Supported by her father Tom (Dennis Quaid), mother Cheri (Helen Hunt), brothers Noah and Timmy (Ross Thomas and Chris Brochu), best friend Alana (Lorraine Nicholson), and youth minister Sarah (Carrie Underwood), Bethany expends all her energy on her desire to get back in the water and surf. Little does she know that the more she pushes herself and embraces her love of surfing, the more her story will inspire millions around the world who will see her as a champion of faith, determination, and perseverance.
She is the living miracle.
What an inspired movie. Technically, it's almost as good as the story it tells, but more importantly, this is a movie with so much heart, authenticity, sincerity, and goodwill that it should serve as an inspiration to viewers for decades to come. Though Soul Surfer is spiritually-based and faith in God plays a large part in the plot -- particularly the notion that God has a plan for the betterment of the one and the many alike and can use any situation to His advantage -- it's not preachy but instead subtly spiritual and focused a bit more on the triumph of the human spirit rather than completely centered on the greater strengths of God. In that way, it's perhaps a bit more relatable to a slightly broader audience, but no matter what one sees in it, it's what the film asks of its viewers to take out of it that's the most critical element. Though a difficult film to watch for its elements of tragedy, grief, and uncertainty, it's also a picture that elicits feel-good and life-grounded uplifting messages on the powers of determination, eagerness to succeed, and faith to overcome. Bethany's actions both before and after her loss of limb aid in her ultimate dismissal of fear and the resultant embracing of the good that can come from evil, should one so choose to take the higher road that's more lightly traveled but that leads to reward and redemption rather than despair and agony for the mind, body, and soul of the individual and all whose lives are touched by Bethany's choice to find the goodness amidst the negatives.
With her heart, her will, she'll go far.
As alluded to above, Soul Surfer is also a well-made movie from a technical perspective, and it's the film's high level of proficiency on both sides of the camera that, in conjunction with its strong personal- and faith-based messages, makes it such a great success of family-oriented filmmaking. The picture boasts an incredibly strong cast; not only are the names -- AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Craig T. Nelson, Kevin Sorbo, and Dennis Quaid (who also starred in another uplifting family film about beating the odds, living a dream, and inspiring others in The Rookie) -- impressive, but the performances are seamless and full of heart and inspiration. The cast is uniformly excellent and seems to have invested its all in bringing the movie and its greater thematic importance to vivid and purposeful life. The trio of Robb, Hunt, and Quaid is simply wonderful, with the three coming together in a way few film families have before. Their relationship is natural in normalcy, tragedy, and triumph; each portrayal is heartfelt and honest, and the three command the screen and become their characters with an effortlessness reserved for only the finest of performers and performances. The script does a fine job of establishing the family as a closely-knit group with a loving and Godly foundation that they find at church, on the waves, and through the company of one another. There's a tenderness that runs through the movie that's as strong as its energized current and spiritual underpinnings and that's by and large a product of the trifecta of strong casting, good writing, and quality direction. Helmsman Sean McNamara directs with an even hand, getting the most, visually, from the many stunning surfing shots, but he smartly disappears into the background and allows his camera to simply capture the action, rather than become part of it, during the film's many dramatically-oriented sequences.
Soul Surfer Blu-ray, Video Quality
Soul Surfer's 1080p Blu-ray transfer, like most every new high definition release from Sony, is flawless. The image enjoys a perfectly filmic texture; a slight layer of grain accentuates the many splendid colors and quality details that are visible in most every frame. Indeed, the transfer carries the many lush Hawaiian hues beautifully; whether natural greens and sparkling blue waters or the many bright shades and accents found on surf boards, swim trunks, and the like, the Blu-ray transfer leaves no color behind and displays each one with a naturalism that's second to none. Fine detailing is another strength; whether smaller little touches like grains of sand and foamy surf waters or more generalized facial and clothing details, the transfer sees each element through with the accuracy expected of a new Sony release. A few nighttime scenes yield exquisitely natural blacks, and while flesh tones appear to favor a warmish bronze shade, they seem in-line with the expected coloring of people living much of their lives in the fun and sun of America's 50th state.
Soul Surfer Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Soul Surfer's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack isn't as energetic and powerful as those found accompanying the highest-octane Action flicks, but it's nevertheless technically proficient and nicely absorbing. The film is more often than not a dialogue-intensive Drama; the spoken word flows naturally from the center speaker, but is flanked by highly impressive music and ambience. The film's score enjoys pinpoint clarity, seamless spacing all over the soundstage, and a heftiness that gives it a full body without coming across as excessively or unnaturally heavy. Ambience -- often coming in the form of crashing waves and the general din of beachside excitement -- flows effortlessly from side-to-side and front-to-back, effectively transporting the listener to the waters and sandy shores of Hawaii. It's not the most exciting soundtrack in the world, but the execution leaves nothing to be desired.
Soul Surfer Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Soul Surfer arrives on Blu-ray with a nice assortment of extras, the collection headlined by a fabulous documentary chronicling Bethany Hamilton's faith, family, perseverance, and love of surfing.
Soul Surfer Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Soul Surfer is about a life well-lived, one that was spiritually prepared -- with the support of a strong family structure -- to deal with adversity and balanced enough to ultimately use tragedy and evil against themselves for the greater good of both the one and the many. The film's real-life authenticity and adherence to truth, both personal and spiritual, sets it apart from the pack and cements it as one of the finest studio-produced, faith-based pictures around. Made whole by fine acting, smooth writing, and technically sound direction, Soul Surfer rides high and catches the wave of success as both a cinematic venture and a goodhearted family picture that espouses infinitely good values. Sony's Blu-ray release of Soul Surfer is just as good as the movie. Technical specifications are flawless and the supplements are many and of high value. No soul-searching required to come up with a verdict for this one; Soul Surfer earns my highest recommendation.
Soul Surfer: Other Editions
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Soul Surfer Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Soul Surfer Blu-ray - June 6, 2011
On August 2nd, 2011, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Soul Surfer on Blu-ray. One of the spring's sleeper hits, Soul Surfer is the true-life story of Bethany Hamilton, a teen surfer whose determination and faith helped her compete on the international ...
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