Sound of Freedom
God’s children are not for sale.
Charlie Scott is a Catholic intervention specialist who has an extreme passion for cinema. He is a founding member of 100 Movies for Catholics.
100 Movies for Catholics was founded by a group of young Catholic men who love and appreciate film, with the goal of promoting edifying works of cinema in the hope of inspiring more young Catholics to take up the challenge of Pope Saint John Paul II to move forward in the New Evangelization. You can subscribe to 100 Movies for Catholics here.
“God’s children are not for sale.”
Sound of Freedom, a new film that is surprisingly taking the box office by storm, is a difficult film to assess due to the dual importance of what it stands to bring awareness to as well as the positive ramifications it may have on the artform of cinema. Its subject matter, child trafficking, perhaps makes it the most important film made in the last twenty years. It stands to have an impact on an industry that has not seen change for some time. Up until recently, the Hollywood juggernaut seemed to be pumping out an endless supply of billion dollar movies, each making more than the prior in a never ending supernova of success.
However, as is the way of the supernova, the corporate Hollywood machine’s success has begun to collapse into a black hole of loss. Being devoid of original content has finally caught up with the industry and it has been showing at the box office. Disney recently reported that their past eight projects have netted them a total loss of more than $900 million, and this is not including The Little Mermaid and the newest Indiana Jones (which are sure to produce losses as well). Despite the apparent endless supply of forgettable content put out by these morally questionable studios, there is one project that has risen to potentially be a rally call for creative, meaningful, and conservative storytelling: Sound of Freedom.
Sound of Freedom is based on the true story of Tim Ballard, a federal agent who quit his job in order to save children being trafficked in Central and South America. The first forty-five minutes of the film portray a gut wrenching sequence of events that include the kidnapping of two children from their father, with the opening credits showing bone chilling, real footage of kidnappings from around the world. Ballard is a seasoned veteran that works for Homeland Security Investigations (a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement), who catches pedophiles and those involved in producing child pornography. He builds a connection with a recently apprehended pedophile to rescue a child that he witnessed victimized in the child pornography that was found. With this, Ballard continues on his journey, eventually quitting his job and teaming up with other figures impassioned with the hope of saving these trafficked children. Throughout the film, he goes to the ends of the Earth to rescue children and find closure and deal with the ramifications of his personal life.
Sound of Freedom is a “Schindler’s List-type” film, where it is equal parts essential and devastating to watch. The film is about arguably one of the most important but least discussed issues facing our world: child sex trafficking. Despite sex trafficking being a $150 billion industry, it has been reduced to being discussed only in passing, something the film seeks to convey. Today, the Hollywood machine cowers away from this topic and would prefer to stick to the usual vices it has always shown, that being drugs, alcohol, prostitution, organized crime, and theft, which not only glorify, but contribute to these problems.
In fact, the lack of content around such a serious and widespread topic like child trafficking is quite odd, with the most recent portrayals being in Marvel’s Black Widow, where it is alluded to but never delved into, and the Taken series, where it is more for commercial consumption rather than promoting a message of change. Child sex trafficking is an aggressively ugly topic that only gets more disturbing and personal the more that it is looked into, forcing us to look at the worst humanity has to offer. The Left is already trying to politicize this film as “alt-right” or label it as some form of “Qanon fantasy,” which are the most asinine accusations that could be leveled on this film. They also claim it is an “American white savior” film, even though most of the cast and crew are from Central and South America.
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Why is concern for crimes against children considered “alt right?” The truth of the matter is that children are the endgame for the Left. This has come to light in recent years with the countless attempts at political and sexual indoctrination within the education system. The backlash against this film is from those who wish to keep pedophilia and sex trafficking out of mainstream political discussion, hence why Disney indefinitely shelved the film. If parents are on guard to protect their children, then the Left is at risk of losing what they seek to own and control. They cannot bear to see a film that seeks to promote human dignity with no mention of liberal politics. Instead, this film only considers fighting selflessly for a cause.
The strengths of Sound of Freedom lie in its execution and its pure, unadulterated confidence in doing what is right. It has a clear message and a clearer call to action, rather than a subliminal message that can be edited out for a Chinese Communist Party censor. Sound of Freedom appeals to the goodness of the human soul, asking us to be participants in standing up to one of the world's greatest evils.
The craftsmanship of this film is excellent and is a massive step in the right direction for Angel Studios. Director Alejandro Monteverde shows command of form with a profound system of framing and blocking, an engaging structure, and the utmost respect for the subject at hand. It would not be imprudent to liken this to a Werner Herzog film, where the filmmaker has such deep respect and is desperate to communicate their genuine passion for their subject that the film is elevated above criticism.
Sound of Freedom is filled with relentless tension and never really offers a break from the mirror it shines back on us. There are numerous times throughout this film where small things come back and add new depth to its already engaging storytelling. The film loosely alludes to a religious call to arms, showing not only the impact one good person can have on so many lives, but how we need each other to fight such mindless evil. This again addresses the lazy “white savior” criticisms of the film because we are all called to the selfless service of others, regardless of who we are.
The other standout of this film is the acting. The performances given by the children in this are leagues above the industry standard. Jim Caviezel, who portrays Ballard, gives a restrained but effective performance that reminds one of the old classic European arthouse films of the 50s and 60s, showing that acting is not acting flamboyant but knowing how to navigate scenes with complex multifaceted emotions. The only criticism of the film is Ballard’s relationship with his wife and family, which while presented as his greatest motivating factor, is only minimally touched upon, as she and his children only have about two or three appearances in the film.
Sound of Freedom is by no means an easy watch. In fact, it is quite difficult at times, but is always told with respect and above all restraint. Rather than go into explicit detail and exploit its subjects, Sound of Freedom shows just the bare minimum to get the message and emotional gravity of the situation across, while treating the audience with respect in the process. Its implications are much heavier than what is explicitly shown, a trick that many modern films seem to forget. The film is important both for what it stands for and as a piece of art. It offers engaging storytelling with a profound message of the importance of preserving and saving children in any sense that can be appreciated by anyone who is willing to engage with it. We are called to protect and safeguard our children, which is precisely the simple and profound statement the film makes.
Sound of Freedom renews hope for good in the world, both on and off screen. If it succeeds in theaters, it could be a true pivoting point in the production of truly worthwhile cinema capable of withstanding time. It is done with both taste and some dramatic flare that makes it well-worth the watch. The wholesome message allows Christians to rally to this film. While some liberals may belittle the film and write it off, they must be implored to engage and take the dialogue about the righteous message of the film seriously.
If Angel Studios can continue to make quality pieces of art such as this and viewers can continue to give them our support, they can rise and offer a fresh perspective in the cinematic language that has been long neglected on the massive studio scale. While supporting the film will support the spirit of independent filmmaking, the primary reason for this push is to ensure a victory for spreading awareness of this awful crime being committed. God’s children are not for sale!