Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton never thought she’d see her story play out on the silver screen. Soul Surfer, based on Hamilton’s biography of the same name, not only reenacts her infamous 2003 shark attack, but accounts for her road to surfing redemption.
The movie introduces Hamilton (Annasophia Robb), raised in Kauai, Hawaii with her ocean-loving family: father Tom (Dennis Quaid), mother Cheri (Helen Hunt), and brothers Noah (Ross Thomas) and Timmy (Chris Brochu). Prior to her incident, Bethany competes and wins in many local surfing competitions, along with fellow competitor and best friend, Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson). The girls anticipate the upcoming Regionals contest, as they both receive sponsorships from Rip Curl, a popular surfing brand. On top of spending a majority of her time in the water, Hamilton also partakes in her local youth group, led by Sarah Hill (Carrie Underwood).
The awaiting attack scene intends to illustrate the exact details of Bethany’s shark attack on Halloween morning, with her and Alana sitting on their boards anticipating the next wave. Little does Bethany actually know about the presence of a 14- foot long tiger shark until it briefly bites her left arm. The next few minutes display Alana’s, her father Holt’s (Kevin Sorbo), and brother Byron’s (Jeremy Sumpter) abrupt rush to send Hamilton to the hospital, as she loses over 60% of her blood. Following the unforeseen event, Bethany is saved and recovers with her signature amputated arm.
The rest of the movie accounts for Hamilton’s struggles as an amputee, as her desire to return to surfing is postponed. Through Hill’s religious encouragement and her family’s well wishes, the plot focuses on Bethany’s everchanging self-conflict on training for the impending national surfing tournament.
Watching Soul Surfer was interesting because the editing on Robb’s left arm was well done. Annasophia had to wear a green sleeve on her arm so the visual effects could be added in post-production to create the “amputated look”.
Underwood’s debut as an actress felt a little underwhelmed, however. It was not easy to picture the former American Idol winner to be in another outlet of entertainment other than singing. Regardless, her role as Bethany’s religious advisor is a nice start to an eventual acting career.
As mentioned previously, Surfer does contain religious references here and there, only to support Bethany Hamilton’s empowerment as a victim overcoming of a huge obstacle. It does not completely load the film with enough Christian influences to drive out a non-Christian audience.
It’s recommended that those seeking an entertaining and inspirational story should see Soul Surfer, because it does bring that warm, “feel-good” mood throughout Bethany’s journey. For others expecting overrun cliches, think again. This biopic is more than just a simple reiteration of someone’s memory; it’s one of appreciation and better understanding on life and what it has to offer.