The Sound of Freedom (Christian Movie Review)
About The Movie
According to child trafficking stats, “The United States is one of the top destinations for human trafficking and is among the largest consumers of child sex.” In order for realities such as this to be properly confronted, they must be properly addressed. That is the purpose of Sound of Freedom.
Based on real-life events, this story follows Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezel), a Special Agent with the Department of Homeland Security who spends twelve years combating the sex trafficking of minors. After participating in hundreds of successful raids, Ballard is faced with the reality that arresting pedophiles, as important as it is, does nothing to rescue the children being kidnapped, sold, and abused.
Backed by his department head (Kurt Fuller), Ballard attempts the rescue of one child, which only increases his desire to rescue more. He soon loses the support of the DHS, which leads him to resign as a Special Agent and seek to rescue more children on his own, pursuing the help of fellow American Vampiro (Bill Camp) and the financial backing of businessman Paul Delgado (Eduardo Verastegui, who also acts as one the film’s producers).
Rather than merely addressing the problem of sex slavery in general, Sound of Freedom focuses its attention on the abduction and attempted rescue of two victims in particular: Miguel (Lucas Avila) and Rocío (Cristal Aparicio), the brother and sister we see kidnapped at the start of the film. Following the plight of a few specific children moves us past a vague awareness of sex trafficking and into some flesh-and-blood experiences which arrest our sympathies. Camp steals almost every scene he’s in, and child actors Avila and Aparicio sell their turmoil with skill beyond their years.
During its third act the film threatens to overstay its welcome, and its resolution risks the aura of fantasy, but these critiques are minor compared to the success of the story as a whole. With stellar production values and a skillful filmmaking team behind the scenes, Sound of Freedom succeeds as an engaging—and heartbreaking—thriller.
Engage The Film
The Ubiquity of Sex Trafficking
At one point in the film, Ballard lays out the facts for another person: “You can sell a five-year-old kid five to ten times a day for ten years straight, every day. Ordinary people don’t want to hear it. It’s too ugly for polite conversation. But meanwhile, over two million children a year are being sucked into the deepest recesses of hell.”
Without being crass or sensationalistic, this story translates those facts into a compelling and gut-wrenching narrative. It rightly puts “polite conversation” aside, refusing to let us skirt the issue with blithe acknowledgements that the world is an evil place for the needy, poor, and vulnerable. Sound of Freedom utilizes pathos to get under our skin and into our hearts.
The Pitfalls of Heavy-Handed Art
Not so successful is a literal PSA from actor Jim Caviezel during the end credits, in which he addresses the audience directly, encouraging them to get as many people as they can to see the movie in theaters. While his heart appears to be in the right place, tacking a marketing message with this specific call to action—as if watching this movie is the answer to sex trafficking—gives an unintentional air of disingenuousness. It’s as if the filmmakers didn’t trust their story enough to stand on its own merits, spelling out to the audience what kind of response is required of them to make the movie effective.
In his PSA, Caviezel mentions the power of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin in turning the tide of public opinion against early American slavery. But the efficacy of Stowe’s narrative resided in the story itself—not a marketing campaign tacked onto the story.
The Dignity of Human Beings—Including Real-Life Victims of Sex Slavery and the Actors Who Play Them
Too often, tales that involve sexual exploitation end up involving scenes that further exploit the actors who star in them. I have addressed this issue numerous times regarding films like Cuties and The Wolf of Wall Street, and writer Katelyn Beaty has warned against the “hidden human cost” of filming scenes of sexual violence in particular.
Thankfully, the Sound of Freedom deftly avoids gratuitous depictions of abusive sex practices. We learn all we need to know by, say, seeing a perp walk into a bedroom, tilt a child’s head up to look at him, then close the curtains of the only window in the room. The evil to be committed against the child is unmistakable—hauntingly painted in the girl’s fearful eyes—and yet the innocence and dignity of the child actor remains intact.