There is a scene in the new film “The Sound of Freedom” that is either cinematic artistry or actual footage of real events — I can’t tell. My sinking feeling after watching the film is that it is the latter. The scene is composed of the kind of grainy black and white video produced by closed-circuit security cameras. What the camera “captures” are children literally being yanked from the arms of their mothers and whisked away by kidnappers on motorcycles. It is heart-wrenching to watch.
The “Sound of Freedom,” like “Schindler’s List,” hinges on the seemingly never-ending capacity for human evil. While “Schindler’s List” deals with the inhumanity in Europe 80 years ago, “The Sound of Freedom” rings an alarm about a global evil taking place today.
The film is based on the true story of U.S. Government agent Timothy Ballard, played by Jim Caviezel (best known for playing Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ”), who risked his life and career to go on a rescue mission to save a young girl being trafficked in South America.
Near the beginning of the film, Ballard finds her little brother, who was being trafficked as part of a child sex slavery ring across the border from Mexico. As the plot unfolds we get a closer-than-comfortable look inside the pervasiveness of “slavery 3.0.”
The form of slavery highlighted in this film is not the slavery of poverty, nor the slavery of an unjust political system, nor slavery to addiction. It is the buying and “renting” out of human beings. The “ownership” of the “product” is as absolute as any Roman patrician possessed, only most slaves in ancient Rome probably had it better than the children who are trapped in modern-day enslavement.
Though shot on a budget, the film doesn’t look it. Superficially, it resembles a mainstream studio action movie. Caviezel’s Timothy Ballard is the real-life U.S. law-enforcement officer with a single-mindedness to find the child that gives the film a sense of an epic quest.
In the post-modern school of filmmaking even the most vile and unscrupulous characters are given arcs that either soften them around the edges or provide some nuance as to why they act the way they do. We have acclimatized ourselves as audiences to expect and even demand that even antagonists in films have mitigating factors. In many films, the “evil” character is actually the protagonist.
“The Sound of Freedom” is revolutionary in its traditional view that the evil men (and it is mainly men) have corrupted souls. I’ll admit that decades of being fed the post-modern version of evil made it hard to suspend my disbelief. Some characters seemed too “good” while others too “evil.”
Then the reality of the film hit me between the eyes. The children in the movie were acting, but I know there are so many just like them in the real world that are not. How else can the plight of such children be seen other than pure evil?
That is what “The Sound of Freedom” captures, that sense that it is time to put away our theories as to why people do the things they do and to recognize wrongs when we see them and stop them. Ballard is that man who identified the wrong and set about righting it.
It sounds like a cookie-cutter screenplay — and it would be — if it were about superheroes rather than real heroes saving real children.
Most importantly, the film pulls the curtain back on human trafficking and gives the audience a sense of scope and range of this evil. One of the characters helping Ballard infiltrate a cabal of child sex slavers gives an economy-of-scale lesson why more and more traffickers prefer smuggling humans over drugs: “You can only sell a drug once, but you can sell a child 10 times a day.”
There is action and a good deal of well-crafted suspense. Yet if there was ever a case where the cinematic successes of a film are outshined and subservient to the content, this is the film.
It may be the pro-life cause the world has been waiting for.
In any given movie theater audience, there must be Christians and Jews, believers and nonbelievers, red-state zealots and blue-state diehards. If you mention the word “abortion” to this test audience, you will get a lot of heat and little agreement. But it only takes a human heart to understand that what “The Sound of Freedom” exposes is something that needs to be stopped.
The signs in subway stations from coast to coast give the same advice: “See something, say something.” The telling of this true story is a call to action that would rewrite such public transit signs to say, “If you see something, say something. If you say something … do something.”
Call it marketing or divine providence, but the film opens on Independence Day.