Image Entertainment // 2010 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // April 12th, 2011
Paradise lost. Paradise found.
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Dana Brown was pretty sure he said everything he had to say about surfing after completing Step into Liquid in 2002. However, just a few years later, he started to realize he had so much more to share about the thrilling sport that pits fearless athletes against the largest waves the world's oceans have to offer. As a result, Brown rushed to start production on Highwater, a compelling feature experience centered around one of surfing's biggest competitions: the prestigious Triple Crown. With Highwater (Blu-ray), surfing in high definition never looked better on the small screen.
Featuring a solid dose of glorious surfing footage and a horde of interviews with professional surfers vying for the big win at the Triple Crown, Highwater focuses primarily on what goes down every winter at Oahu's popular North Shore, where the world's top surfers and the sport's most loyal fans gather for a season of high-risk competing among the sea's most threatening waves.
If there is one thing Dana Brown is incredibly knowledgeable about, it's surfing. His expertise and passion for the sport clearly show in Highwater, which accompanies professionals such as Kelly Slater, Sunny Garcia, Pat O'Connell, and Andy Irons as they fight their way to the Triple Crown's final events. Unlike Step into Liquid, though, Highwater spends less time focusing on surfers and more time showing viewers what exactly the North Shore and its reputation as surfers' paradise means during the busy winter season.
Brown does a solid job showing how the North Shore is transformed as preparations for the Triple Crown kick off at the end of each year. Typically quieter throughout most of the year, this Oahu area simply explodes with life as soon as the world's best surfers roll into town. The waves keep growing every day, local businesses thrive again, passionate surfing fans arrive from all over, and the beach is flooded with cameras and surfboards.
Brown successfully captures the exploding energy at the North Shore from the start of the season all the way through the end of the competition; watching him on his quest to share the surfers' experiences turns out to be quite exhilarating. Highwater may not be as deep and moving as Step into Liquid, but this film intends to tell a different story. Brown knows how to keep his viewers engaged from start to finish.
Of course, Highwater obviously wouldn't be as exciting without a lot of surfing. Brown and his team capture as many gorgeous waves as possible. The footage of these expert surfers becoming one with the ocean is truly mesmerizing, and all the images recorded by high-def water cameras will have you watch along in awe. Additionally, in-depth interviews with surfers and surfing experts further help spectators better understand just how challenging and rewarding this sport can be.
Even though the central story in Highwater fails to match the originality of Step into Liquid, the film still manages to inspire. Brown's usual human factor may be a little tougher to find this time around, but if you carefully listen to the surfers and really allow yourself to be pulled into all the action at the North Shore, you'll quickly discover the true heart of this story. On that same note, I've never seen an empty, meaningless Dana Brown film.
Image Entertainment has given the film the Blu-Ray transfer it deserves, presenting the feature in a clean 1.78:1 widescreen transfer with exquisite picture quality. The use of different cameras in the film explains occasional graininess in certain segments, but all of the surfing footage looks as gorgeous as ever. Audio is flawless throughout, due mostly to a solid DTS-HD Master Audio track properly balancing on-location sound and music.
Diehard surfing fans will also appreciate the DVD's bonus section. Aside from a bunch of extended interviews with the filmmakers and surfers, the special features also include an additional 30 minutes of glorious surfing footage that will leave you speechless. That's more than an additional hour of surfing goodness to satisfy everybody's needs.
Although not as memorable and spectacular as its predecessor, Dana Brown's Highwater has enough compelling interviews and unique footage to keep surfing fans, whether newcomers and veterans, feeling the love for the sport. This is a visually striking film I would definitely recommend.
Review content copyright © 2011 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage
* Extended Interviews