When it comes to facing confronting issues at a global scale, it’s easy for a sense of helplessness to develop into willful ignorance.
No matter what facts we learn, we still feel that the big picture is out of reach, or a battle meant for someone else to fight, and we turn away.
A tangible connection is crucial for any cause to find its crusaders and Angel Studios’ newest film Sound of Freedom succeeds in doing just that.
The grounded and emotional story takes the child trafficking and abuse crisis and makes it personal, following Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezel), a Homeland Security agent who has been capturing child predators across the US for 12 years.
Although hundreds of perpetrators have been brought to justice, Ballard struggles with his inability to rescue a single exploited child as they all remain outside US jurisdiction.
During a raid in California, Ballard arrests a child predator who gives up information that leads to the recovery of a young trafficked boy from Honduras, named Miguel.
He returns the child to his father, only to discover that his sister, Rocio (Cristal Aparicio), was also abducted.
His promise to Miguel to find her leads him to Cartagena, Colombia, where a former cartel accountant, Vampiro (Bill Camp), helps set up a sting operation on a nearby island.
Ballard’s mission is intense, confronting and self-sacrificial. Not only does he go undercover as a trafficker but his Homeland Security supervisor orders him to return to the US, as the department is unable to cover the expense and the political liability of such an operation.
Determined to keep his promise to Miguel, and supported by his wife and family back home, Ballard resigns and carries out the rescue operation with the help of Vampiro and the US embassy in Colombia.
The team successfully arrests Cartagena’s top traffickers and frees all 54 children but learns that Rocio was not among them.
Finding that she had been sold to a drug lord, Ballard and Vampiro must travel into the Colombian jungle if they are to save Rocio from her cocaine-fuelled captors and reunite her with her family.
Sound of Freedom is a compelling character-driven drama that shines a light on the horrors of human trafficking.
Based on a true operation and filmed at actual locations, writer and director Alejandro Monteverde wastes no time in bringing the audience into this Honduran family’s drama from the very first shot.
By the time Caviezel’s Ballard is introduced, audiences have gone on a heartbreaking journey with Roberto and are committed to seeing the children returned and the perpetrators brought to justice.
This film does not shy away from the harsh reality of child trafficking and sex abuse but portrays it in such a way that it does not deter, but stirs the soul.
It successfully walks this fine line between traumatic and emotive imagery, seamlessly integrating what would normally be seen as obvious exposition into Miguel and Rocio’s hellish journey from slavery to salvation.
The plot is straightforward, with the film carried by performances that portray the best and worst of humanity.
Jim Caviezel gives a restrained and subdued portrayal of Ballard, with a seriousness that succeeds in placing the spotlight on the victims rather on the heroes.
Just as he did in The Passion of Christ, Caviezel shows his mastery of expression, instantly revealing Ballard’s inner thoughts with a simple glance or a teary glossed-over eye.
Giving much-needed levity to a dark drama, Bill Camp is a standout as Vampiro, the former sinner turned saviour.
Camp completely owns his role as a man with one foot in both corrupt and courageous worlds.
He truly brings his character’s personality to life and his Hawaiian shirt-wearing, cigar-smoking, charismatic presence on screen is a much needed respite from the heavy emotional tone.
But Camp’s Vampiro is no wise-cracking sidekick—he has a truly powerful conversion story and his moving monologues make for some of the film’s most gripping sequences.
Along with the acting, it is the world-class cinematography and seamless editing that creates such memorable and soul-stirring scenes.
Cinematographer Gorka Gomez utilises emotionally driven compositions to provide the perfect backdrop for a captivating and intensely suspenseful narrative.
Real security camera and newsreel footage from actual raids give credence to the child trafficking crisis, builds conviction and compels the audience to take action toward safeguarding the dignity of every child.
Sound of Freedom, rated PG-13 for thematic content involving sex trafficking, violence, language, sexual references and some drug references, was released in the US on 4 July and has currently made more than $65 million at the box office.
An increasing demand for worldwide distribution and overwhelmingly positive media attention will see Angel Studios release the film in Australia later this year.