In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a young brother and sister, Miguel and Rocío, are kidnapped as part of a child-modelling scam. Their father Roberto discovers the children have been sold to be used as sex slaves.
In California, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent, Tim Ballard, is becoming frustrated by the work he does arresting the people who make and distribute child pornography. He knows they rarely stops children from being exploited, so he takes a different and more dangerous approach to his job. This leads to him breaking a paedophile ring and rescuing Miguel.
From here, Ballard discovers that Miguel’s sister Rocío is still missing and he makes it his mission to find her and shut down the criminals responsible. He heads to Colombia where he makes connections with US Embassy staff, a local police officer and a wealthy citizen and they set up a complex sting operation to locate a reportedly large number of children, who have been trafficked, recently. Stage by stage, Ballard encounters increasingly dangerous situations and violent criminals and it becomes obvious that the depth and extent of the human trafficking is so much larger than anticipated.
SOUND OF FREEDOM is a recently released action-drama that reaches Australian shores travelling on an impressive wave of US box office success. In its initial weeks, it has taken more than US $170 million and beaten the summer blockbuster INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. And it did so on fewer screens and with a tiny marketing budget. For an independently funded film to out-gross the box office takings of an expensive Hollywood product, is not unheard of, but highly unusual. Angel Studios the makers of the movie have also run a Pay-It-Forward scheme on their website, encouraging filmgoers to buy a second ticket, so that can be claimed by others who couldn’t afford to see the film otherwise.
The movie has also become something of a political football in the US, where somehow, their “culture wars” have turned the subjects of human trafficking and child pornography into party political issues, which they are assuredly not, because all political parties, there and elsewhere, can be reasonably accused of not doing enough about human trafficking.
There has also been an amount of negative publicity surrounding the truth of Tim Ballard’s story. This is a particularly un-useful road to travel when looking into successful movies, because the words “based on a true story” tend to be used very loosely, much of the time. See: Catch Me If You Can (2002), The Blind Side (2009), Argo (2012) Captain Phillips (2013) and The Revenant (2015) as just a few of the films that have gone under scrutiny for how true or fictional they are.
Telling an audience what they are watching is based on a true story makes it easier to ascribe heroes and villains for them to love and hate. This is even done when there is a clear hero, but no villains, such as in Clint Eastwood’s film SULLY (2016). In THE SOUND OF FREEDOM, Mexican writer/director Alejandro Gómez Monteverde is taking tales of a multi-layered, multi-national criminal networks and attempting to simplify it enough to shock and inform the audience. The message is that these heinous crimes happen every day and that something needs to be done to stop them.
There are other incidents and controversies attached to this movie that fall out of the scope of this review. Travel down the Internet rabbit hole if you wish to know more.
The resulting film is quite straight-forward. It has several slow-burn sequences punctuated by well-mounted action scenes. At times, it is grim and bleak, but overall it pays off in the good-defeats-evil sense the audience for this movie is seeking. The real-life Tim Ballard wanted Jim Caviezel to play his part, because he admired his Edmond Dantés in the 2002 production of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. And Caviezel does a solid job in embodying the determined and world-weary agent. The children, Cristal Paricio as Rocío and Lucás Ávila as Miguel are heart-breakingly good in their difficult roles. José Zúñiga is moving as their father Roberto.
SOUND OF FREEDOM is a well-made film about a tough subject. Occasionally it loses pace and focus, but the film-goer’s need to see a family reunited will carry you through the two- hour-and-ten minute running time. (7/10)