Lionsgate // 2003 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // July 10th, 2008
No special effects. No stuntmen. No stereotypes. No other feeling comes close.
With Step Into Liquid, documentary filmmaker Dana Brown steps into his father's shoes and delivers a fascinating look at what it is that really drives professional and everyday surfers to battle the forces of the oceans and spend their lives questing for the perfect wave.
In this thrilling documentary, Brown interviews both amateur and professional surfers as he travels the world in search for the best spots to practice the sport.
I never thought highly of surfing and never even stood on a surfboard myself (and probably never will), but watching this compelling film helped me better understand why so many people out there risk their lives day in, day out to ride the most dangerous waves and be at one with the ocean. Although this documentary doesn't exactly cover the origins of the sport, it digs a little deeper into the evolution of surf culture and gives legendary surfers such as Gerry Lopez, Kelly Slater and Mike Parsons the chance to explain why surfing is such a thrilling, liberating and above all addictive experience.
On a different note, Brown's film also battles the stereotypes of surfers as beach bums, presenting enough evidence that most of these people are passionate athletes and that surfing is to be taken as seriously as professional football or any other popular sport. Brown cleverly brings up the example of Australia, where surfing receives just as much attention in the news as tennis or cricket.
Besides the horde of interesting and informative testimonies from some of the world's greatest surfers, Step Into Liquid also features breathtaking footage of courageous surfers trying to conquer the monstrous waves in places like Hawaii, Tahiti or Ireland. From gorgeous underwater images to highly impressive helicopter shots, most of the surfing scenes in the movie are quite simply unique. And while the fantastic footage alone is almost as captivating as it can get, Brown's enlightening narration and the film's catchy soundtrack inject it with even more excitement.
One thing I really like about Dana Brown's documentaries is the presence of a strong human factor. Step Into Liquid is not just a film about surfing, it's a film about the people who see surfing as a source of their happiness and ambition. Someone who really adds an emotional touch to the movie is Jesse Brad Billauer, a paralyzed surfer who decided to continue to surf even though he has to lie face down on the board. Personal stories like this one distinguish Brown's flick from documentaries that solely focus on the sport without paying enough attention to the people who really practice it.
Back when I first saw the film on DVD I was really impressed by the beauty of the footage and the great quality of the image, but now that I watched it again on Blu-ray, I'm just blown away. Despite only a few grainy scenes, the 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen presentation boasts a sharp and clean picture quality throughout, offering viewers yet another stunning high definition experience. The 7.1 DTS HD Master audio transfer is just as intense, giving Step Into Liquid an even more realistic touch.
Besides four deleted scenes, a couple of music montages and plenty of interviews with some of the surfers featured in the film, the bonus material on this Blu-ray disc includes "Let's Go Surfing," an interesting 13-minute crash course during which Robert Weaver explains the basics of the sport and what you have to watch out for before you step into liquid. Also included in the special features is "Capturing the Wave," a 13-minute featurette about how the movie was shot and what kind of equipment Brown's crew used to capture the giant waves and film the surfers up-close.
If you want to learn a little more about the athletes in the movie, I suggest you check out "Passion for Liquid," during which Dana Brown and some of the surfers share personal stories about how they got hooked to surfing and what it is about the sport that keeps them so stoked about it. Rounding out the bonus material is Brown's informative feature film commentary. While he spends considerable time discussing the numerous challenges he and his crew encountered during the complex shooting of the film, he also gives viewers a deeper insight into the lives of his interviewees and how great it was working with them.
You don't have to be a passionate surfer to fully enjoy Step Into Liquid. As long as you're interested in watching extreme sports or learning more about what drives the people to do what they love to do, Dana Brown's documentary will certainly not disappoint you. Surfer or not, it's an impressive and entertaining flick filled with useful information and engrossing footage.
Review content copyright © 2008 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* DTS HD 6.1 Master Lossless Audio (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Filmmaker's Commentary
* Deleted Scenes / Alternate Footage
* Let's Go Surfing
* Making a Surfboard
* Capturing the Wave
* Passion for Liquid
* Dale Webster Interview
* Music Montages
* Official Site