SOUND OF FREEDOM doesn’t sound like something you would want to see on an evening out at the movies with its rather controversial subject, yet this groundbreaking and quite alarming new movie currently making waves in release I found such a powerful movie experience throughout. A lot of what you have been hearing about this movie is at such varying levels of reaction in media, most of whom who have not actually went to see the movie itself. Ignore all of it, listen to your trusty movie writer here and go watch SOUND OF FREEDOM with an audience and make up your own mind. I think you’ll be very happy with what you see and even a little shocked and wanting to do something.
Filmed over five years ago and not released until now, the movie was originally produced by 20th Century Fox and folded into Disney when they bought the studio a few years ago. Shelved by Disney, the smaller company Angel Studios bought the rights back and crowd-funding led to its current theatrical release, where it has caused quite a strong audience reaction and genuine word-of-mouth resulting in box office success. I did not get the chance to see the movie until very recently as this seemed to have come out of nowhere and taken North America by storm.
The real power of SOUND OF FREEDOM is not only what it does but what it also DOESN’T do. It does so much with limited means while at the same time not going TOO graphic, just showing us enough horrors of this side of the world to get the viewer to take notice. I sat completely glued to my comfortable theatre seat for its entire 128 minutes as it shows not only the issue of child trafficking but also the process of people trying to do the right thing.
Opening in Honduras, we see a truly horrifying sequence where an actress/recruiter approaches a young girl with the promise of bringing her into the entertainment industry. She also sees her brother and invites him along. When the father returns to the same apartment, he finds it completely abandoned and we last see him running into a dark city street. This sequence alone absolutely rocked me to my core, as even in just a few shots with a long-lens showing a door with black around it and the lingering takes on the recruiter, I started to feel tense.
Cut to Southern California, where we meet Tim Ballard (played in the movie by Jim Caviezel) who at this point is a Homeland Security agent tracking down pedophiles, most of whom are uploading content in their houses. This then ties into Tim who winds up rescuing the son through tricking an arrested pedophile into giving up information, leading to an even bigger mission where Tim is asked by the boy to find her sister who has at this point been put into the “system”. This leads him back down to Honduras and then Colombia with the help of a former grifter (Bill Camp, terrific here) turned rogue who becomes an ally in Tim’s journey.
The movie walks a very tight line of having a message yet also working as entertaining movie on a cinematic level, which every movie should be doing first. Yes, this is a horrifying issue but SOUND OF FREDOM does a great job of pulling you in and getting you involved in the complicated story. Even the final act, where Tim has to pose as a doctor and go right into hostile territory, unarmed, is a seriously gripping sequence, and of course the APOCALYPSE NOW – slash – HEART OF DARKNESS themes come heavily into play.
The filmmakers here have an incredible visual and sonic design at such a great level for a low budget movie. The entire filmmaking team here is Latino based, led by director Alejandro Monteverde and his team, and you can clearly tell they are passionate about this subject. Yet they also know they are in the world of cinema and have designed a rich, colourful look and strong sound design. I always get worried when the filmmakers’ politics get in the way of making a good movie, and luckily Monteverde and team are up to the task.
It also helps that Caviezel, an actor who has been under a lot of fire over the last few years, is absolutely outstanding as Ballard and shows every bit of stress and pain in his eyes throughout. He clearly studied Tim Ballard well and deserves huge credit. Almost even better are the child actors who play the brother and sister, played here by Cristal Aparicio and Lucás Ávila who really remind me of the power of child acting. I have no idea the process they went through to depict these real kids who went through this entire ordeal, but both of them are absolutely outstanding.
Of course, there are a few mild steps that the filmmakers made. It is revealed late in the movie that Tim’s wife Katherine is a large source for his journey yet, as Mira Sorvino plays her, her character is barely in the movie aside from a few awkward cut-in scenes where the plot exactly tells Tim exactly what she wants to hear. And there are a few line deliveries from various that just sting a little too strong and go over-the-top. I also felt a slight disconnect at the end without much actual resource to get up and actually do something with more resources available.
Even with that, I left SOUND OF FREEDOM in tears and inspired to do something not only because the issue is ongoing and we still have lots of work to do, but it also completely inspired me as there are still people like Tim Ballard out there fighting for change. I don’t care what the media is telling me to see otherwise; I can feel it in my heart that Ballard did the work and all of the result is on screen thanks to a strong filmmaking team that want to inspire as well as entertain. I urge everyone to simply ignore all the media and others trying to get you to avoid seeing it, for all the wrong reasons. I took the chance, sat in a theatre seat and let this entire experience envelop all over me.
This is not a political stance. This is not even a religious one. SOUND OF FREEDOM is about a real human issue, and the experience of sitting in a packed theatre itself is something that will stay with me for a long time. See it, come up with your own take and if you like the movie, spread the word. With this movie making over $100 million in the box office as of this writing, the audiences can’t all be wrong.
SOUND OF FREEDOM is now playing in theatres. If you like the movie, do stay for the credits as Caviezel has a really strong message as the credits play.