“God's children are not for sale."
This is a quote used by Jim Caviezel's Tim Ballard in “Sound of Freedom,” which has a cliched title, but it has so much to say and the execution of the material feels so committed by Caviezel and the rest of the cast. This is a film that could've easily been shameless and manipulative in its approach, but instead of choosing to be sermonizing, it focuses on what a movie of this sort should do: Telling a story. In that regard, the movie works well not only for its target audience but it also aspires to a higher level of filmmaking that a lot of films aim for and generally miss.
As mentioned in this true story, Caviezel plays Tim Ballard, a government agent working for Homeland Security. He's rescued 288 children from pedophiles and while he's accustomed to the work, some of his partners aren't.
He gets a tip that a number of children have been kidnapped for human trafficking under the guise of a children's modeling agency and they've been shipped down to Colombia. Ballard wants to assemble a team to help him locate and rescue the children, but his superiors refuse to get involved. The stakes are just too great and the chances of finding these kids are slim to none.
Ballard decides to operate outside his jurisdiction and he enlists the help of a man who goes by Vampiro (Bill Camp), who has the right level of expertise he needs. There's good chemistry between the two as Camp provides Caviezel with all the intel and resources necessary and Camp's character gives the film a welcome need of occasional jocularity in this gripping mission.
Ballard is determined to see that these kids and in particular a brother and sister get reunited with their father.
The movie takes a great deal of interest in concentrating on this brother-sister relationship and while this element could've been played out to the max in terms of being sappy, there's something authentic at its core that makes us care if this family gets reunited. Not to mention, this case takes Ballard away from his own family, especially his wife (Mira Sorvino) who has very few scenes.
“Sound of Freedom” is directed and acted with a lot of competency and reverence for its subject matter. There have been some debates on whether the movie is accurate to the actual case. I know that in a lot of films based on true events, many liberties are taken in order to make the film much more compelling. “Sound of Freedom” is no different. However, what surprised me was how involved I got in the story.
The movie pulls no punches on the devastating effects human trafficking has not only on the child victims, but also on the people who are sent to save them. Some want to give up after one case while others such as Ballard are shown as persistent in their ideals that no child should be exposed to such harrowing circumstances. Some scenes will be extremely difficult to sit through for its target audience.
Give credit to Caviezel for humanizing this character and not making him one-note. We can see clearly he plays Ballard as matter-of-fact and direct but not without a semblance of compassion to go along with his strong will. It may go right up there with his level of commitment of playing Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ.”
The movie is filled with realistic tension and palpable suspense despite the fact that we know its inevitable conclusion, but the journey Caviezel and the filmmakers take is one that is more absorbing and even inspiring than I expected it to be.
“Sound of Freedom” succeeds in not only making an expertly made film, but also shedding light on a disturbing issue with dignity.
(Rated PG-13 for thematic content involving sex trafficking, violence, language, sexual references, some drug references and smoking throughout.)