If there is an award for most controversial movie of the year, Sound of Freedom is a surefire winner. Up until its release most people hadn’t even heard from the movie and competing against the final Indiana Jones movie it was sure to bite the dust. Fast forward a couple of months later and Sound of Freedom has become one of the if not the most successful movie of the year. Oh and that final Indiana Jones movie? It is one of of the biggest bombs this year.
The story of how Sound of Freedom became successful is almost as, if not even more interesting than the movie itself which deals with child sex trafficking. You know, the kind of lighthearted entertainment that fills movie theaters seats. But filling seats it did, despite the heavy subject. And that is were the most intriguing part of Sound of Freedom comes into view.
Sound of Freedom is labeled as the Q-anon movie. This movie managed to rile up all of the conspiracy theorists to go out and see this movie. The people who believe in a secret cult consisting of baby-snatching’ and blood-drinking left-wing politicians and celebrities. Helping sell the movie to this crowd is star Jim Caviezel, himself a supporter of Q-anon. The strangest part is of this all is the fact that this movie was made before Q-anon was even a thing.
The movie as shot way back in 2017 and acquired by 12th Century Fox for distribution. But then Disney acquired Fox and the company mostly focused on the famous IPs and the movies it could still release. Remember, this was at the same time that it was even questionable whether Marvel’s The New Mutants would even be released. So this little movie about child sex trafficking was shelved and forgotten about by Disney. The people behind the movie shopped the movie around but no studios showed any interest. This is a child sex trafficking movie starring Jim Caviezel after all. Good luck selling that to the masses.
One studio did show interest. The faith based Angel Studio, known for a whole slew of religious movies made for the religious right in the US. It released the movie, there was a whole buzz, Donald Trump hosted a showing and this movie made Indiana Jones look like a clown at the Box office.
But much like I did the previous paragraphs people seem to be talking more about the story of the movie, than the actual movie itself. Which undermines not only the movie, but also paints an incorrect picture of the movie. Sound of Freedom isn’t a Q-anon movie. The child sex trafficking depicted in the movie has nothing to with a Hollywood pedophile ring. It covers the actual real life forms of trafficking and exploitation of minors. Not the glamorized Q-anon version starring Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey.
Sound of Freedom covers the true-ish story about Tim Ballard. He is a former government agent who turns vigilante and rescues children from sex traffickers in sting operations. As with any “based on a true story” movie Sound of Freedom takes plenty of liberties with the material. The main center of the movie is a real life sting which features Ballard posing as a wealthy pedophile who owns an island. Under the guise of a party for him and fellow pedophiles he tricks sex traffickers into delivering no less than 54 children to the island. This actually happened and there is footage of the actual raid during the end credits.
This raid and the footage is a good example to explain the usage of the word “true-ish” in the previous paragraph. It is true that Tim set up this operation and rescued 54 people, but they were not all minors. According to actual news reports about half of the people rescued were children, the rest were adults. It is still a great accomplishment by Tim, but the movie showing only children in danger adds to the questionability of the story.
The movie doesn’t feel like a standard three act structure, but does contain three segments. The first segment of the movie covers Tim’s work as a government agent and him putting pedophiles behind bars. This is also the most difficult segment to watch as it is filled with (suggested) child abuse. His valuable work also frustrates him. While he has almost put away 300 pedophiles, the children he comes across in seized child pornography are still out there being abused. A life changing moment comes when he decides to convince a captured pedophile he’s actually one of them. He gets him released and the pedophile provides him with details about a young boy arriving in the US especially for Tim to do as he pleases. Tim rescues the boy, Miguel, who turns out to be a trove of insight about how these trafficking gangs work. He also provides Tim with a goal: to save his sister who is also being exploited somewhere.
The second segment has Tim going vigilante in South-America and setting up what will turn out to be the island sting operation. After rescuing the 54 children it turns out Miguel’s sister isn’t among them. After some old school interrogation Tim has a lead which brings the movie to its final segment.
Tim goes undercover as a doctor without borders to deliver vaccins in the middle of the jungle where guerillas run the show. Miguel’s sister is rumored to be sold to a guerrilla leader and held at a cocaine plantation. This part feels like the end of Rambo 4, but without all of the bloodshed as Tim goes in unarmed.
While I can’t say with a 100% certainty, I’m pretty sure that Miguel and his sister are characters written especially for this movie. A narrative hook to hang the actual events on. The first two segments feel the most realistic, but the final segment in the movie is obviously a Hollywood interpretation of a rescue mission.
But that segment is also the most entertaining part of the movie. It feels a bit more like a piece of escapism and the whole child abuse element is put more into the background. Though it does end with a confrontation between Tim and the guerilla leader as he’s about to rape Miguel’s sister.
Sound of Freedom is a good looking, well made movie. Despite the difficult subject matter which makes the first 30 minutes often hard to stomach. But because of the subject matter and images on screen this feels like a movie that belongs in smaller theaters specializing in art-house movies, rather than large multiplexes where it’s playing next to a Fast & Furious movie.
It does make me wonder; what kind of person decides to spend his Friday night with his/her friends or a date watching a movie that opens with real footage of children being abducted in the streets? A movie that features children shipped in shipping containers and has a pedophile gleefully talking about abusing young kids. A movie that implies the offscreen rape and abuse of children multiple times.
Are there auditoriums full of Travis Bickles watching Sound of Freedom? I sure hope not. But we live in a time where people enter pizzerias with guns because they read on the internet that Hillary Clinton is trafficking children in the basement.
Sound of Freedom is a good movie tackling a difficult subject matter but sadly marketed to conspiracy nut-jobs.