The incredible true story of a former government agent turned vigilante who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue hundreds of children from sex traffickers. (from IMDb)
In 2009, director Pierre Morel delivered a hit action film called Taken that featured a retired operative, named Bryan Mills, played by Liam Neeson whose daughter goes missing on a trip overseas. When he realizes she's been trafficked into the sex trade, he uses his "very special set of skills" to track her down, beating up or killing any of the traffickers that might dare stand in his way. It was a solid action/thriller, and it doubled as a means of shining a light on a real problem in our world today: human trafficking. While the character's daughter was a teenager, being put up for auction to the richest bidders from other countries, it didn't show the most disturbing form of human trafficking... children.
Sound of Freedom was filmed five years ago and is just now getting to see the light of day. Distributed by Angel Studios, the team behind the hit Biblical series, The Chosen, Sound of Freedom tells the true story of Tim Ballard, a government agent who worked regularly to arrest pedophiles across America. When he poses as a dirty cop interested in pedophilia in an attempt to implicate one of the suspects with deeper involvement in child trafficking, he's given enough evidence to track down a little seven-year-old boy named Miguel who was sold into slavery. This ignites a passion in Tim that leads him to hunt for Miguel's missing sister and attempt to rescue more enslaved children -- even if it costs him his job, and maybe his life.
Ever since 2000's release of Frequency, I've been a fan of Jim Caviezel as an actor. In 2004, he made a huge impact on Christian audiences across the world with his fantastic portrayal of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. Caviezel has gone on to star in many more movies of various genres, and even starred in a moderately successful sci-fi crime show called Person of Interest. But most of his movies as of late have been of the indie variety, keeping a lower profile. As a devout Christian himself, it's no surprise to find him attached to such a powerful film as Sound of Freedom. But given the movie's intense subject matter, I can't say I would be eager to watch a movie of this kind if it were not for Caviezel's involvement. And while I certainly enjoyed his performance in Sound of Freedom, I found it to be one of the most challenging movies to watch in recent years.
Sound of Freedom opens with a young girl - maybe 10 or 11 years old - who has the ambition to sing professionally. When she and her little brother are led under false pretenses to a photoshoot with other children, the woman directing the shoot begins encouraging the children to let their hair down and unbutton the top button of their shirts. Again, it's the kind of seedy and deplorable situation that most people just don't even want to consider. But, sadly, it's a real travesty happening in our world right now. When the pair's father comes back later that night to pick them up at the time he was instructed, he finds the room the children were in to be completely empty, without a trace of anyone ever having been there.
Enter Tim Ballard. When he decides to pretend to be a dirty cop, the information on the missing little boy, Miguel, falls right into his hands. Before long, he's able to locate Miguel and bring him to safety. It's then that he learns about his missing sister, and with a push from the siblings' grieving father, Tim decides to go undercover again to try to bring the girl - and other children - to safety. Along the way, we see flashbacks to what happened to the children when they were smuggled out of the country in cargo ship containers, and we're given a grittier look into what these children had to endure as victims of the child trafficking trade.
Again, it's scenes like those that can make any sensible person's skin crawl. From the photoshoot early on, to a highly suggestive - but non-explicit - scene where we see the little girl cowering on a bed as a man stands nearby and pulls some window curtains closed, Sound of Freedom is able paint a vivid picture without showing explicit details. But the movie makes you feel for these children and get a clear idea of what this disgusting underground world looks like. Either way you look at it, it's all super creepy to even think about, and it makes Sound of Freedom really difficult to watch at times. Where Taken had a sense of theatrics to it due to Neeson's Mills character running and gunning all over to try to rescue his daughter, Sound of Freedom is far more grounded and real.
With that said, I honestly wasn't sure what to expect when it came to content, but I was still surprised to hear a little bit of profanity in the movie. It's infrequent, and I get that they wanted to add to the grittiness of the reality of the story, but I don't think it added anything to the movie to have it in there. There is no blasphemy, but there are a couple uses of the "S" word (even one from Tim), and several other words shown in subtitles. There isn't much by way of graphic violence, but we do briefly see a photo of a dead man lying in a pool of his own blood. There's also one violent fight scene between two men that is sort-of shown from a little girl's perspective, so the scene cuts to black a few times when she shuts her eyes, and is shown again as she opens them. There's a lot of talk of sexual abuse, but nothing is shown explicitly. A few scenes imply sexual acts with children have taken place or are about to take place, and some of the dialog gets creepy when Tim and Vampiro are undercover as pedophiles trying to open a "sex hotel" and are trying to get lots of children shipped to them (so they can eventually free them). It's a heavy, heavy film from start to finish, and not one for the whole family.
Sound of Freedom is being marketed to the faith-based audiences, but it isn't an overtly spiritual film. It's obvious Tim is a believer, and really only one major exchange between him and the former druglord, Vampiro, has Tim stating that "God's children are not for sale" and Vampiro talking about his divinely appointed role to help free these enslaved children. The movie itself is pretty quality, too. The performances are all excellent - especially Caviezel, not surprisingly - and it all adds up to really help make the movie that much more impactful. The beginning of the movie did feel a little rushed and choppy at times, with some scenes feeling oddly brief (like Tim interacting with his boss, played by the always reliable Kurt Fuller), but I also understand they were trying to cover a lot of ground in just over 2 hours of running time.
It's hard to talk about a movie as challenging to process as Sound of Freedom. It's an inspiring story that certainly educates viewers about an uncomfortable topic that most people probably aren't the least bit aware of, but it's also not a movie that works on a sheer "entertainment" level. Sound of Freedom is certainly a tough watch, but it's a quality and well-made production that shines a spotlight on a serious problem in our world today that cannot continue to go overlooked.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/24/23)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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