Anti-Catholic Philosophy No Objection
This movie injured me.
It really hurt my heart.
Sound of Freedom centers around Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezel), a Homeland Security officer who has arrested many pedophiles during his tenure. However, the job is getting to him and he is haunted by the fact that he arrests the criminals, but he never rescues the children. So he decides to step up and ends up rescuing Miguel (Lucas Avila). But rather than settling his heart, Ballard is haunted by the knowledge that Miguel's sister has also been sold into human trafficking. Ballard decides to go undercover with the help of a former cartel man Vampiro (Bill Camp). But as the challenges mount, Ballard has to make increasingly difficult choices in pursuit of his goal.
The biggest detriment to this movie is that is not written very well. The scenes are disjointed and too short. It's almost as if screenwriters Rod Barr and director Aljenadro Monteverde had to keep each scene to one page of script. This is especially noticeable regarding Ballard's wife (Mira Sorvino). Here you have an Academy Award winning actress who only has a handful of lines that seem randomly sprinkled throughout the film. In addition, the character arcs are essentially flat. Ballard and everyone else in the film are pretty much the same at the beginning of the story as they are at the end.
Normally, this would be enough to completely sink a film. But the craft of the other parts of the film compensate.
The best comparison I can make is to the movie United 93, about the airplane on 9/11 when the passengers rose up against the terrorists. Because the movie wanted to stay as factually accurate as possible without much embellishment, they didn't add the normal script elements to create large character arcs or a flowing narrative. And yet I found myself crying in the movie theater because what was presented on the screen touched me so deeply.
Monteverde perfectly balances the horror of human trafficking without devolving into exploitation. He never lets you turn away from the ugliness of this world, but he is restrained enough to only imply the crimes while giving you the full emotional impact of these crimes. I'm not an angry person, but part way through the movie, I said to my wife "I want to kill all of these human traffickers." That rage carries so much of the narrative as you desperately want and need Ballard to succeed. Monteverde knows how to frame a shot and how to use the camera to build up horrible tension that puts you on the edge of your seat.
The other thing that helps this movie from overcoming the script problems are the performances. Caviezel is fantastic. As emotional as the subject is, his performance is wonderfully restrained. He projects a masculine power that is holding in his breaking heart. The scenes where he has to pretend to be undercover are fascinating to watch as you can see his contempt masked under a smile. Camp is also wonderful as Vampiro. He has a wonderful monologue in the middle of the film that is delivered with pitch-perfect emotional depth. The child actors are also wonderful as they show us their harrowing experience.
The movie sees itself as a modern day Uncle Tom's Cabin (this is an explicit analogy made during the credits). It wants to be a clarion call to end modern slavery. Like most message movies, it hopes that this message will cover its script mistakes. Most of the time, this does not work. But in the case of Sound of Freedom, it does. That's because you cannot help but getting emotionally entangled in the story. Watching these poor children be exploited by heartless men and women is heartbreaking. It forces you to imagine the terror of this happening to those whom you love. And the sad fact that this is a true story about things that are happening right now only further drives the knife into the heart.
As a film critic, I cannot say that the movie is good simply because it has a good message. But in spite of the script, the movie is able to use their other story-telling powers to make a truly deep connection to the audience and move them.
Sound of Freedom will break your heart if you let it.
And you really should let it.