Faith Transforms a Tragedy into a Triumph in ’23 Blast’ (Movie Review)

Billie Jo YoumansBy Billie Jo Youmans8 Minutes

This 2014 inspirational movie shares the true story of how teenager Travis Freeman’s (Mark Hapka) faith transforms his personal tragedy into a triumph for many. It is unapologetically Christian, but not religious, simply portraying the power of faith to instill hope.

With a modest budget, a mixture of novice and veteran actors, and a first-time director, 23 Blast didn’t bust the box office or earn any Oscars—but there’s a good possibility it has changed lives. Yes, there are some cheesy conversations and cliché circumstances, but more importantly, there’s a message of courage everyone can use. Whether one lives as a victim or a victor is a choice, and 23 Blast shows the way to living as a champion.

Alexa Vega (as Ashley, a true friend) and Becky Ann Barker (as Patty, Travis’ rehabilitation therapist) deliver stellar performances. Both powerfully portray the potential for influence each life has on another. Stephen Lang (Coach Farris) reveals how a good coach moves you toward your potential. The movie consistently points out the value of surrounding yourself with positive influences.

Here’s a fun fact that came with research for this article: Travis Freeman is not the only blind football player – although he is the first one on record that I could find. Currently, Jasen Bracy, a blind 16-year-old quarterbacks for a California team. Jake Olson played as a long-snapper for USC, and Aaron Golub was the Tulane University football team captain. In 2022, the USA formed its first national blind football team and plans to compete in the 2028 Paralympics. So, 23 Blast expanded my horizons – and that outcome alone makes me a fan of this movie.

The inspiration and challenge given by those who refuse to accept difficulty as defeat is an even greater reason to cheer for this movie. It’s easy – and tragically common – to give up when faced with a difficult situation. But it’s unwise, since the truth is: life is difficult. 23 Blast inspires us to get out of our comfort zones and step into the possibilities of life! It’s worth watching.

A Little Entertainment

Travis, a high school star football player – and team leader, loses his eyesight and faces a life-defining choice: descend into a pit of self-pity over what he can no longer do or delve deep within to find his God-given identity. While tragedy doesn’t thrust everyone into such a drastic decision point, we all choose the direction of our life. 23 Blast gives some insight on wise choices.

The movie clearly shows that the people who surround you matter –individual influences shaped Travis’ new reality. The devoted camaraderie between Travis and his best friend, Jerry, attests to the special place of long-time friendships. When Travis shut others out of his grief, Jerry took matters into his own hands. He brought fun, laughter, and the motivation to get out of the pit of self-pity. Jerry does a good job showing all of us the way to step in and step up when a friend is in crisis.

Beyond that special relationship, several other individuals helped Travis build a life of purpose. 23 Blast clearly portrayed an array of involved caring, concerned people who invested their time (and hearts) in helping Travis laugh, cry, embrace challenges, and do things he didn’t want to do. That the character of one’s friends can change your life comes through loud and clear as the story unfolds.

A Little Deeper Digging

Of all the powerful messages in 23 Blast, one truth stands out for me: faith in the goodness of God transforms tragedies into triumphs.

The tenacity of Travis Freeman rested upon his confidence in God. Although the movie portrayed the “logical” despair of a teen facing blindness, interviews with Travis Freeman reveal another story. Like young Daniel in the Bible, the truth of God’s Word was the fiber of his soul. He was not a child who just learned Bible verses, he believed them and built his life on them. Like Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Before his blindness, Travis accepted the concept of God having good plans for him to do. When the tragedy hit, his belief in God’s good plans didn’t waver. The beauty of child-like faith gleams forth as he trusted in God’s power to bring about His promises. It is faith in the Word that brings victory to life. And faith is a gift God loves to give and encourages everyone to ask for it. 23 Blast reveals what such faith looks like and accomplishes.

But anyone who thinks faith is a crutch – or a magical cure-all never read Hebrews 12:27: “… He will take away everything of this world that can be shaken so the things that cannot be shaken will be left” (NLT). Struggles are a guarantee for the Christian because God’s plans employ the earthly to reveal the eternal. BUT when we live from the truth of God’s love and purposes for us, we have no lack (2 Timothy 3:17) and nothing to fear (1 John 4:18)!

Meditate on these verses and ask yourself if they are just words or if they are the foundation of your life and the power of your steps.

  • “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
  • “Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes” (Psalm 44:5).
  • “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Truth walked out proves the power and promises of God. Any movie that can move us in that direction is a WIN in my book!