‘I’ ON CULTURE
Because of all the critical arguments, I felt I had to see Sound of Freedom to see for myself whether it was a “true story about sex trafficking and heroic efforts to stop some of it” or “a right wing fantasy designed to accuse our government of assisting in creating a lot of young slaves.”
It was not easy getting to see the film a few weeks ago. I was shocked when told that not only was the show I wanted to see sold out, but so was every showing for the entire weekend.
This small movie whose estimated cost was $14 million has passed $150 million in ticket sales and has not yet gone to international markets.
What we do have is a really good B-movie. You know, no stars, no wild special effects and no quick comedy lines to break the tension. It shows how Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezel), a federal agent, manages to stop a creep smuggling an eight-year-old boy into the country for sexual purposes. The producer (and also co-star) Eduardo Verástegui from the start milks the tension, as we see the young boy and his sister kidnapped in Honduras, despite the efforts of their father, and brought to Colombia before the boy is shipped to America, after spending weeks in Mexico being raped. Ballard, having saved the boy, finds out that his older sister had also been kidnapped and starts working to help her.
Eventually, he leaves government work because it is too restrictive (his boss is sympathetic, wants to help him but can’t allow him to go too far beyond normal boundaries) and goes down to Colombia, where working with Vampiro (Bill Camp), a former drug kingpin who has gone straight, he sets up a sting that saves more than 50 young sex slaves, but not the sister. So, he winds up in an essentially insane bid to raid the camp of a guerrilla group where the sister has been forced to be the mistress of the boss.
At the end of the film, we are told that Ballard’s work rescued more than a hundred of these children. And, boy do we feel good.
The question has arisen in terms of truth. Quite a few critics said this was a product of the imagination of QAnon, a radical right-wing group. But that does not really hold up. Many of the organizations pooh-poohing the film actually covered the events, which happened in 2014. I saw an interview on MSNBC where both the interviewer and interviewee laughed at the whole notion and told people to miss it. However, MSNBC actually covered the action back when it happened. And, of course, that further convinces the conspiracy theorists that they are right.
That does not mean that everything shown in the film is completely accurate. Some people involved have pointed out that many of the elements are not all that well backed by facts, although they agree the overall story is pretty accurate.
What are we to believe? Rotten Tomatoes, the web site that tabulates reviews, reports that 69 percent of critics liked it but 99 percent of the people who saw it did. Over time, our political and social factions have become so split that because we hear Ballard/Caviezel say the line, “God’s children are not for sale,” somehow this is a right-wing fantasy movie.
It is not. The U.S. government and all its people are shown to want to stop trafficking and are sympathetic characters. The bad guys are shown to be really bad. The action, although slow at first, picks up sharply under director Alejandro Monteverde, and I could hear the sell-out movie audience (on a Wednesday afternoon) holding their breath as the sting operation looks like it might fall apart.
The cast, generally actors most of us have never seen, is very good. Caviezel is strong, far too daring, all the characteristics we see in B-movie heroes. Camp steals a lot of scenes. His confession of why he changed from bad guy to good guy after being with a hooker who he thought was a world-weary 25 only to find out she was 14, and had been “doing business” since she was six, was harrowing. Mira Sorvino, in a small but key role as Ballard’s wife, was very good.
Again, a very good B movie. No laughs, but it is incredibly powerful.