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Welcome, World Travelers! Sound of Freedom Lets Freedom Ring Loud and Strong

by James Coulter

To be honest, when it first premiered, I hadn’t taken much notice or interest in Sound of Freedom. However, two things about the movie quickly piqued my curiosity.

First was how much this little-known film from a little-known indie studio made at the box office. Surprisingly enough, Sound of Freedom managed to outgross big-budget blockbusters like The Flash or Indiana Jones: The Dial of Destiny.

Second was the controversy surrounding this film. Many mainstream media outlets, and left-wing critics and pundits especially, have lambasted this movie as “reactionary”, “right-wing” propaganda, with The Guardian going so far as to call it “Qanon adjacent.”

So how can such a small film from a small studio generate such large controversy and big numbers at the box office? Does Sound of Freedom deserve all the attention? Or is this all simply much ado about nothing?

Sound of Freedom begins in Honduras, where a little girl and her brother are approached by a media scout promising a big career in the entertainment industry. If this offer sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. It turns out to be a front for a child sex trafficking operation that traps both little children.

Enter Tim Ballard, a Special Agent for Homeland Security. When Tim rescues the little boy, he vows to find his sister and return her to her family, even if it involves going against his superiors and forcing his way through Hell on Earth. The question is, will he succeed?

Sound of Freedom is based on the real story of Tim Ballard, a former U.S. government agent and an anti-human trafficking activist who served as the founder of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). The movie was originally filmed five years ago and slated for release by 20th Century Fox. However, following Disney’s acquisition, the movie was dropped and eventually picked up by Angel Studios, an independent crowd-funded studio.

While Sound of Freedom is being marketed as a thriller, don’t go into the movie expecting yet another action flick with high-octane chase scenes or climatic battles. Instead, the film is more of a grounded, character-driven drama.

Jim Caviezel does an excellent job playing the main character. Rather than yet another over-the-top action character, Jim remains reserved and grounded in his role. His performance portrays a man who struggles with the evil deeds he has witnessed throughout his career, yet remains determined to maintain human goodness by fighting back against the evil.

Being a more-grounded character, Tim does not engage in the over-the-top dramatics or tropes of other action characters, which, in turn, helps to subtly and artfully subvert said tropes.

For example, in one scene, Tim tries to gain intel from a prisoner. He goes to the man’s jail cell, where he notices a security camera inside. He tells the man to come with him for a “walk.” In any other movie, he would do that to beat the information out of him. Instead, he simply escorts the man to the courtyard for a leisurely smoke and chat.

Being a film about sex trafficking, the movie touches upon heavy, dark subjects; yet while other, bigger Hollywood studios would hyperfixate on the gratuitous (and even objectifying) aspect of that subject matter to entice audiences, this movie remains reserved yet no less pathos-inducing.

For example, in one scene, the young girl character is in a hotel room with a solicitor. The man shuts the blinds. The music stops abruptly for a few hallowing seconds before cutting to the girl crying in a bathtub. The implication is evident yet equally haunting.

Admittedly, the movie is quite melodramatic. The good characters are explicitly good and the bad characters are explicitly evil. Some critics would criticize this movie for lacking “nuance”, but sometimes, some issues need to be portrayed in clear black and white. Human trafficking is one of them. Sex trafficking, especially child sex trafficking, is unequivocally evil, so portraying everyone involved in it as evil, mustache-twirling villains is a good thing, actually!

Sound of Freedom has become controversial, mostly due to its association with the Qanon conspiracy. However, this movie was made five years ago before Qanon became popular. Not every portrayal or discussion of sex trafficking is about Qanon, and it’s not the film’s fault if people associate it with the conspiracy.

However, to be fair, many viewers who buy into the Qanon conspiracy will, no doubt, feel their beliefs vindicated by the movie—which, again, is not its fault. And it certainly doesn’t help that Jim Caviezel has made many infamous (and unfortunate) comments supporting Qanon.

One fair criticism involves the film’s depiction of sex trafficking. Many critics accused the film of not portraying the issue accurately. As with many other movies about real-world issues, the film does overdramatize and exaggerate the circumstances surrounding the issue for the sake of cinematic drama. As such, people should never gain all their information about any given topic from movies or media (as they are, for the most part, fiction), but should instead educate themselves on the matter through reliable, non-fictional sources.

Overall, Sound of Freedom is a decent thriller, and while it isn’t the greatest movie ever, the fact it surpassed many big-budget Hollywood films in both ticket sales and ratings is nothing to sneeze at. If you’re looking for a good movie that isn’t the same-old Hollywood shlock, give this film a chance.

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Staff Reporter

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