Year:  2023

Director:  Alejandro Monteverde

Rated:  M

Release:  August 24, 2023

Distributor: Icon

Running time: 131 minutes

Worth: $16.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Jim Caviezel, Bill Camp, Jose Zuniga

Despite all the attendant hype and noise, Sound Of Freedom is a solid second-tier thriller…nothing more, nothing less.

Proof that faith-based-and-backed films can triumph at the US box office – through means fair or foul, according to a host of wild conspiracy theories that have swirled recently – the thriller Sound Of Freedom finally arrives in Australia after rating as a surprise smash in the states, and upon viewing, any rational-minded cineaste will likely ask what all the fuss is about. Though branded dodgy conservative propaganda in some circles, the Christian message pushed here is mild at best, while alternative claims that this is some kind of QAnon propoganda are equally spurious. Sound Of Freedom is a fairly mild thriller about the horrors of child sex trafficking in which those doing the busting are driven by their Christian beliefs, which are mentioned maybe three times. And when it comes to rescuing children from sex slavery and imprisoning those responsible for it, won’t any motivation suffice?

Catholic-of-note Jim Caviezel is at his soulful best as Tim Ballard, a Homeland Security Investigator and committed family man who specialises in busting American paedophiles who get their sordid, repulsive kicks online via sicko content beamed in from around the world. Though he’s busted hundreds of American predators, Tim has never been able to rescue any of the offshore children that feed their sick desires, and that has been eating away at him for years. A new bust, however, gives Tim the opportunity to head to South America in pursuit of a brother and sister abducted from their loving single father (a heartbreaking Jose Zuniga). Things then get decidedly strange, as Tim teams with an honest cop (Javier Godino) and some oddball vigilante types (the excellent Bill Camp, and the slightly less excellent Eduardo Verástegui) to arrange a sting operation to rescue a horde of kids and bust a bunch of traffickers. Things then get even more peculiar as Tim goes on an Apocalypse Now-style, journey-into-the-heart-of-darkness trip down a jungle river to further his quest.

Though allegedly the true story of anti-trafficking activist Tim Ballard, Sound Of Freedom often strains belief, with Ballard’s undercover insertion into various dicey situations happening way too easily, and with too many unlikely coincidences driving the action. That said, Sound Of Freedom is certainly entertaining in a direct-to-the-small-screen kind of way. Jim Caviezel is highly engaging and compelling in the lead role (though no actress has ever been wasted as badly as Mira Sorvino is here as his saintly, bizarrely understanding wife who supports his dangerous crusade without question), and despite its lengthy running time, the film moves at a nice clip. The thrust of the plot (let’s get these kids away from these monsters) is hard not to get caught up in, even when you know you’re being emotionally manipulated. As for questions around the film’s propagandist qualities? The depiction of child exploitation is (thankfully) veiled and decidedly non-exploitative. The paedophiles are just your garden variety American basement dwellers and cliched South Americans, rather than Democrats or identifiable left-wingers, and the Christian content largely revolves around the line that “God’s children are not for sale” and that Tim and his oddball offsiders are doing “God’s work”…nothing too sinister or disturbing there.

Despite all the attendant hype and noise, Sound Of Freedom is a solid second-tier thriller… nothing more, nothing less.