It would be best to begin a review of Sound of Freedom by making it clear what the movie is not. This is not a film with partisan political messaging. Although the lead character expresses personal faith in God, it is not an overtly religious film either. Assuming it to be one or both of those things is easy, considering star Jim Caviezel has made controversial QAnon-related statements of late and has indicated a belief that people are engaging in the non-existent practice of “adrenochroming” children. So what is the film? It’s actually an effective drama about a man trying to make a positive difference in the world.
Based on a true story, the movie casts Caviezel as Tim Ballard, a government agent who takes down child predators. He has a crisis of conscience, realizing that busting perverts is fine, but it’s not actually saving children. For that reason, he convinces his boss (Kurt Fuller) to send him on an operation in Colombia, where he intends to set up a fake hotel that will lure wealthy pedophiles with the promise of sex. Once there, they can be busted.
Ballard teams with an American expat, “Batman” (Bill Camp), in securing funding and finding traffickers to provide children, who will of course be rescued upon arrival. A chance encounter with a young boy who escaped such trafficking leads to a second mission, wherein Ballard attempts to locate and save his sister. She turns out to be deep in the heart of the Colombian jungle, necessitating a perilous trek.
Sound of Freedom, as Caviezel explains in a message embedded in the end credits, was actually made five years ago. The subject of child sex trafficking rendered it something studios and distributors were reluctant to touch. While certainly a tough sell to the “Saturday night at the movies” crowd, such hesitance is a bit baffling. The film is a sincere effort to address an important issue, and director Alejandro Monteverde handles the subject delicately, never letting his tone become exploitative. In fact, the look at how Ballard puts his scheme together proves enlightening in how it shows the many moving parts of sex trafficking, as well as how it operates in the shadows.
The performances are very good. Caviezel brings a sense of commitment to his role, convincing us that Ballard is fully dedicated to his cause. Bill Camp, meanwhile, is excellent, convincingly making Batman one of those guys who knows how to navigate the underground. The actor gives him a larger-than-life quality that’s entertaining. One significant disappointment is the minimization of Mira Sorvino, who portrays Ballard’s wife Katherine. Her scenes appear to have been chopped way down, to the point where she pops in for a few seconds to say something encouraging to him, then quickly gets shuffled off. That leaves Katherine a single-dimension character, present solely to support the male lead. Why cast an actress of Sorvino's stature, then not utilize her?
In real life, Tim Ballard’s methods have generated a bit of criticism to go with the praise they’ve received. The movie would have been deeper and more well-rounded if it had alluded to this fact rather than depicting him solely in saint-like fashion. Nevertheless, Sound of Freedom has an effective mix of anger and compassion – anger at a world where people sexually exploit children and compassion for the innocent victims who do not deserve such treatment. The film really makes you think about the problem of child sex trafficking and how we can all work together to end it. That alone makes it worthy of seeing.
out of four
Sound of Freedom is rated PG-13 for thematic content involving sex trafficking, violence, language, sexual references, some drug references and smoking throughout. The running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes.