Bethany heads out for a surf with Alan's family near a picturesque reef when tragedy strikes. In an instant a shark pops out of the water, taking her arm and most of her board in the process. Thanks to the quick reactions of Alan's father (Kevin Sorbo), the family manages to get Bethany back to land and to a hospital. This is around the halfway point and from here on the film deals with Bethany's recovery and rehabilitation. She struggles for a bit to deal with only having one arm and eventually learns to get back in the water, despite the fears people around her have for her safety.
As a somewhat biographical piece, Soul Surfer does a decent job at capturing the hardships that Bethany endured. The film doesn't necessarily balance all the pieces of the puzzle well enough, but the set up coupled with the inevitable tragedy do pack a dramatic punch. The spirituality angle can be a bit heavy-handed and there are moments included here that simply don't do the narrative any favors, like the missionary trip to Thailand. The film also spends too much time at the beginning leaving one guessing when the shark attack will happen. Jaws-like underwater shots foreshadow the coming attack, but the eventual incident feels weakened by this effort.
Overall Soul Surfer is a family friendly kind of picture. It presents an uplifting story set around a singular tragedy that's decently acted. The occasionally hammy script is kept in check for the most part and the dramatic highs and lows are more subdued than they should have been as the film plays it safe, but it's ultimately satisfying. Consider Soul Surfer a recommended film for family night.
In terms of Soul Surfer's presentation on Blu-ray, the film looks quite good with its full 1080p high definition transfer with AVC codec. The movie comes with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. As far as detail is concerned there's plenty to look at here. From skin tones to fabric and even the foamy, clapping waves of the ocean, Soul Surfer has plenty of eye-candy. The details are crisp and sharp throughout, and the pallet is vibrant with some stunning contrast. Occasionally the sun washes out the colors and shadows, but it hardly detracts from the otherwise stellar presentation. The DVD that's included with this release isn't bad either, even though the details are a little softer and there's some inherent grain in the darker scenes.