FILM REVIEW: ‘Sound Of Freedom’: One Man’s Fight Against Human Trafficking

Screenshot/Angel Studios/YouTube

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Kate Anderson Contributor
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Warning: This review contains spoilers for the film “Sound of Freedom.”

Timothy Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an anti-human trafficking organization, has made it his mission to rescue children from sexual slavery in countries all over the world because “God’s children are not for sale,” according to the new film “Sound of Freedom.”

Sound of Freedom,” produced by Angel Studios and written and directed by Alejandro Monteverde, is based on the true story of Ballard’s journey from catching pedophiles as a government agent to going on his own to rescue children that are often never found, even after the perpetrators are caught. Ballard is played by actor Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ,” “Frequency,” “Deja Vu”), who has called the the role the most important important part he’s had since playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” (RELATED: Former Border Chief Says Agents No Longer Have Time To Vet For Child Trafficking)

Ballard spent his early days working for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), bringing down U.S. human traffickers before going home to his family every night trying to scrub the images of thousands of children being brutally victimized from his brain. At the beginning of the film, a co-worker says he doesn’t know if he can do the job anymore and Ballard replies that at the end of the day they have to be satisfied with just getting the bad guy because they can’t save everyone, but that quickly changes after he stumbles on a little boy named Miguel.

Caviezel’s performance provides a profoundly thoughtful, and oftentimes painful, look into the life of someone working to dismantle the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise. When Ballard is asked why he would go off the reservation, risking his career and retirement, to fulfill an obsessive drive to save children outside of DHS’ jurisdiction, Caviezel’s quiet but desperate delivery pulls at one’s conscience: “This job tears you to pieces [and] this is my one chance to put some of those pieces back together.”

Seven-year-old Miguel and eleven-year-old Rocío Agular in the trailer for the film “Sound of Freedom.” (Screenshot/Angel Studios/YouTube)

The true stars of the movie, however, are the brother and sister duo, Miguel and Rocío, played by Lucás Ávila and Cristal Aparico, whose sincerity and heartbreaking innocence will bring the audience to tears on more than one occasion. In the film, both children are taken from their single father in Honduras under the guise of a talent audition before being placed on a ship to Mexico, where they are later separated and sold.

The moment is juxtaposed with haunting, real footage of children being snatched while they play soccer, from their mother’s arms, or as they leave school. Multiple times onlookers can be seen watching, yet, doing nothing to stop the attack as the victims kick and fight to escape.

Miguel is rescued months later by DHS agents at the Mexico-U.S. border as part of an undercover assignment, but his sister is nowhere to be found. After reuniting the boy with his father, Miguel gives Ballard a necklace that belonged to Rocío, pleading with him to find her.

Seven-year-old Miguel and eleven-year-old Rocío give a face to the horrors children who are sold into sexual slavery experience, and as Ballard argues in the film, one day it might not be just a child from a faraway country but our own that are subjected to this evil. The film is rated PG-13 and does not show any graphic depictions of assault but several scenes follow the moments leading up to the abuse as Rocío is branded by her traffickers to keep her from running away and Miguel is threatened with his sister’s life if he does not obey the men who bought him.

Other notable performances come from José Zúñiga (“Twilight,” “Madam Secretary,” “American Crime Story”) as Roberto, the children’s father, and Bill Camp (“12 Years A Slave,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Joker”) as Batman. Camp’s character, a former mafia boss in Columbia, gives a sickening account of the moment his previous lifestyle finally caught up to him, before agreeing to help Ballard in a sting operation that saves 54 children from a sex hotel.

The third act of the movie is a gripping retelling of Ballard’s efforts to infiltrate the criminal gang that Rocío was sold to. Posing as a United Nations medical worker, Ballard goes into the gang’s territory, and nearly witnesses a rape before getting into a fight with Rocío’s captor and finally fleeing with the little girl under the cover of darkness with a hail of gunfire following them.

The film is set to be released in select theaters on July 4, 2023, and Angel Studios is currently offering a pay-it-forward program, where viewers can pay for someone else to watch the movie who might not otherwise be able to.

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