“Soul Surfer” tells surfer Bethany Hamilton’s story after shark attack

“Soul Surfer” brings the story of Bethany Hamilton, a shark-attack survivor, and her professional surfing career to the big screen.


Elisa Walker, Writer

“When you come back from a loss. When you beat the odds, and never say never …You find a champion.”

Real story brought to the big-screen

“Soul Surfer” documents the inspiring true story of Bethany Hamilton’s journey to getting back in the water after surviving a shark attack. At 13, Bethany was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off Kauai’s North Shore. After losing over 60 percent of her blood, surviving the traumatic amputation of her left arm, and enduring multiple other surgeries to repair the damage, Bethany returned to surfing a month later.

In 2007, Hamilton turned pro and is currently ranked 20th on the 2010 Association of Surfing Professionals Women’s Tour, according to her website. Since the attack, her story has been told in all types of media outlets, as well as in books and devotionals. She has also started a foundation of her own, Friends of Bethany, which helps shark attack survivors, amputees and seeks to inspire others through their stories.

“Soul Surfer” does a wonderful job of portraying Hamilton’s journey. It spends an appropriate amount of time developing her character, taking the audience through her attack and recovery, and the latter part of the film portrays her inspiring will to get back up.

The great thing about “Soul Surfer” is that the audience doesn’t come out of the theater feeling depressed. Instead, it is inspirational. This movie truly has soul as well as a heart, and is pertinent to most people.

Movie quality surprisingly good

The movie’s overall feel was good, and I really didn’t notice that it was made on a low budget of around $15 million. One of the best scenes in the movie was when Hamilton travels to Thailand –– the set was very realistic and the re-creation was great.

The film had a good cast, too: AnnaSophia Robb (Bethany Hamilton), Helen Hunt (Cheri Hamilton), Dennis Quaid (Tom Hamilton), Carrie Underwood (Sarah Hill), Kevin Sorbo (Holt Blanchard) and Lorraine Nicholson (Alana Blanchard). Although Underwood and Nicholson seemed to struggle with acting at times, they brought enough sincerity to their roles that it didn’t really bother me. Plus, Nicholson is the daughter of Jack Nicholson and I think that with practice she has the potential to become really good.

The script was decent, and with a low budget film like this, I didn’t go in expecting “The King’s Speech” and so, wasn’t disappointed. Of course, there were a couple of cheesy moments, but because the film overflowed with inspiration.

The special effects in the movie were decent as well –– her arm looks legitimate. The only problems arise during surfing scenes because I could tell that it wasn’t Robb surfing.

Film provides new perspective

At the beginning of the film, Sarah Hill, Hamilton’s youth pastor, tells the kids that if they’re having trouble with something, they need to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Then, things usually won’t seem so bad or troubling. This film accomplishes this very task. After the film, my troubles didn’t seem so big, and I truly felt inspired to not let life get me down.

Hamilton’s story is such an amazing testament to God’s grace and purpose in our lives. Her spiritual journey gave purpose and meaning to why Hamilton ever got back on her surfboard, and the film shows it truthfully and blatantly without painting Bethany as some hyper-spiritual maniac. It instead paints the picture of a girl whose faith drives her to keep surfing and to reach out to others in need.

Hamilton’s story is unique and unequivocally inspiring –– we should all take a lesson out of her curriculum for life. I highly recommend that you see this film, not for its epic nature or its astounding graphics, but for its heart and soul. It’s not merely a movie to bring entertainment anyway, but a story –– and a darn good one at that.

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