(REVIEW) “Sound Of Freedom” tries really hard to raise awareness about the very real evils of sex trafficking, but in the process they forgot to also make a good movie.
The film follows real-life anti-sex trafficking activist Tim Ballard (played by “The Passion of The Christ” star Jim Caviezel) during his days as a federal agent who then quits his job to travel to another country and save the sister of a boy he rescued from traffickers. The film was picked up by “The Chosen” distributors “Angel Studios” as part of their new push to make theatrical releases (in addition to streaming) a regular part of their output.
There is definitely an explosion in faith-based genre movies and studios this year. Not only did we open the year with the usuals with the third-season finale of “The Chosen” and the Erwin Brothers’ latest film “The Jesus Revolution”, and the Affirm pictures “George Foreman” sports drama but also new genres and players launched. The team behind “God’s Not Dead” gave us the one of the first faith-based horror films with “Nefarious”. The Glenn Beck backed The Blaze news website bought its first comedy to put on its platform. Angel Studios launched its theatrical dvision with the throwback Biblical epic “His Only Son.” Later this year we’re going to get a musical rendition of the Nativity with “The Journey to Bethlehem.” And Angel Studios next film is what is essentially a faith-based action film about sex-trafficking with its film “The Sound of Freedom.”
The quality of these movies are improving too. It used to be we were grateful whenever a Christian film was “basically halfway decent.” Now, “basically halfway decent” is the norm.
Unfortunately, “Sound of Freedom” is not one of those films.
“Sound of Freedom” definitely is a film that markets itself based on its message rather than on its entertainment value. The trailers all highlight the statistics of human trafficking (“It’s the fastest-growing international crime network that the world has ever seen”) and some end with a plea by the director to get the word out about the movie so they can increase awareness about the problem.
This, of course, is a worthy goal. As the movie notes, there are more slaves now than there were even when slavery was legal. It’s also one of the few activist issues that seems to unite both religious and secular activists across both sides of the political spectrum.
On the other hand, it’s choice of “real life story” to build around that issue, and choice of collaborators, is somewhat more controversial. The real life Tim Ballard has been accused of making up the stories he told about his heroic stings and rescues of children that are really the work of law enforcement. Likewise Jim Caviezel has embraced and publicly supported QAnon conspiracy theories, which claim that human trafficking rings are run by a global movement of Satanists, and a movement which has become toxic before and after it helped incite the Jan. 6th riot at the capitol.
That said, it’s probably a good thing that the filmmakers are encouraging people to see the movie based on its message. Because the movie itself is not very good.
There are good things about the film. The opening sequence, which shows the process of kidnapping children by the traffickers, is artful and heartbreaking. And the cinematography has a dark yet etherial quality that creates a moodiness and dread to the piece that I appreciated.
And yet, somehow the filmmakers are able to make a movie about sex-trafficking into one of the most mind-numbingly boring movies I’ve seen in ages.
The movie sleepwalks through its story with a supposedly somber and dreary tone that instead feels dull and lifeless. There are no moments of humor to give us relief, no quickening of the pace to get our blood pumping when danger is about to happen, nor extended moments of tension to make us hold our breath. Instead, every character appears bored and just goes through the motions through every action scene, line of dialogue, or set piece.