As a movie reviewer I am torn when it comes to "In God's Hands" because as a movie it mostly struggles, it struggles to provide a consistent storyline to keep those who are not surfers interested. But then on the flip side it is still fascinating because in between this struggling narrative is a look at the life of big wave surfers, the training they put in, the analysis they do before trying to ride big waves as well as the issues over using jet skis when it comes to entering big waves. This side is good and even as someone who has no intention to ride a wave I can appreciate the skill of these surfers, the work they put in and the risks they take. But it often gets lost in the midst of a messy storyline which ends up not only feeling manufactured but also padded out.
Whilst "In God's Hands" starts with us meeting soulful big wave surfer Shane on a train talking to a pretty traveller about heading to Mexico to ride a big wave the actual storyline starts long before that. It really starts 3 months earlier as we meet Shane, Mickey a former World No. 2 and Keoni a young surfer as they get in to trouble when Mickey tries to seduce a woman and after one of many manufactured dramatic scenes which sees them escape jail it settles on their training. We watch as they spend time training in Bali, Keoni contracts Malaria, Shane practices being towed by a jet ski whilst Mickey being a purest does not believe in using jet skis when it comes to entering big waves. After some time training they hear that big waves are going to hit Hawaii and so head there.
In a way "In God's Hands" is a mix of what the real life of a big surfer is and a manufactured drama which plays to the cinematic ideal of a surfer. It is why when we watch are trio end up busting out of jail it feels very manufactured as it the writers knowing that realism would not be exciting tried to give the movie a bit of adventure. That is not the only issue because there are too many times when Shane's soulfulness is over emphasized and whilst the story of Keoni contracting Malaria is believable how it plays out is less so.
It is a shame that there are these issues because when it focuses more on what these surfers do it becomes fascinating. Often cinema portrays surfers as dudes who travel the world looking for adrenalin rushes where here whilst we still get the travelling and adrenalin rush we also see the time and effort which is put in. We see the training that goes in to make sure that they are fit enough to take on a beating from a big wave and we see the technical knowledge they obtain about waves, how they we will hit, what happens if you get flipped and how long you may stay under. As a non surfer this side is interesting and when you also get shots of the guys riding these mammoth waves "In God's Hands" becomes genuinely good.
Now when it comes to the performances it is obvious that many of the cast are surfers rather than actors and whilst in some ways playing themselves there are times where it becomes uncomfortably forced. Yet at the same time there is something very watchable about Shane Dorian and Matt George, they have great chemistry which in a movie which is disjointed is important to keeping us watching.
What this all boils down to is that as a movie "In God's Hands" is a struggle because it doesn't have a solid storyline. But then there is something fascinating when it purely focuses on the lives of surfers and what they actually do rather than trying to turn their lives into some sort of adventure movie.