Sound of Freedom is the kind of film that audiences, especially faith-based audiences, have come to expect and hope for from Jim Caviezel. While Caviezel has been acting for years, it was in 2004's The Passion of the Christ that Caviezel became a household name with his searing performance as Jesus one of those performances that you simply never forget. Since that time, Caviezel has maintained a relatively lower profile with a strong emphasis on faith or values-based cinema.
Much like the occasionally controversial Caviezel, Caviezel's character is the occasionally controversial yet deeply committed founder of Operation Underground Railroad, or O.U.R., a non-profit anti sex trafficking organization started by Ballard in 2013. Headed into theaters from Angel Studios over the July 4th weekend, Sound of Freedom kicks off with Ballard's time as a U.S. Special Agent for the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security with specific duties on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) and the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team. The film finds much of its narrative arc in an early riveting scene involving the kidnapping of a father's two young children by discreet yet ruthless child traffickers. Eventually able to rescue one of the children, Ballard discovers the boy's sister is still captive and he begins a passionate journey toward trying to find and rescue her. This leads him to eventually become frustrated by the constraints of the effort as a government agent, a frustration that turns into quitting his job and starting what will become known as O.U.R. where his admittedly unorthodox approach takes him deep into the Colombian jungle and even deeper into the seediest parts of the world in an effort to free her from a devastating fate.
Angel Studios has always shown a willingness to present the grittier side of the human experience. While Sound of Freedom is only rated PG-13, it's significantly grittier and darker than what one usually sees in the faith-based film industry. It gets even grittier, quite honestly, because of Caviezel's committed, relentless performance as Ballard. There's something in Caviezel that always comes to life in performances such as this one, a beautiful weaving together of faith and a powerful story. A devout Catholic, Caviezel always brings tremendous gravitas to films like Sound of Freedom and the same is very much true here.
The road for Sound of Freedom has been a long one. Completed over five years ago with a planned 21st Century Fox distribution, the film's release was put on hold when Disney acquired Fox and opted out. With another pandemic-fueled disruption, Sound of Freedom has found what seems like an idea home with Angel Studios.
Caviezel, who has called the film his second most important project after The Passion of the Christ, gives a fierce, courageous performance as ballard alongside the likes of Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, the always impressive Bill Camp, and Eduardo Verastegui. Verastegui also serves as a producer for the film.
For those used to the usual faith-based movie experience, Sound of Freedom definitely goes a bit deeper and darker to tell the story co-written by Rod Barr with director Alejandro Monteverde. The film for the most part avoids any controversial aspects of Ballard's story and instead focuses on bringing to life a line from the film spoken by Caviezel as Ballard "God's children are not for sale."
Sound of Freedom is a suspenseful portrayal of the realities of human trafficking with Javier Navarette's original score amplifying the film's dramatic arc without ever sounding overly histrionic. Lensing by Gorka Gomez Andreu often envelopes in the darkness and desperation yet also never lets us forget there is light.
There's a strong sense of authenticity throughout Sound of Freedom with much of the film actually shot in Cartagena, Colombia. It's this setting that helps give the film a strong sense of isolation and hopelessness while making us realize the magnitude of Ballard's efforts here.
Sound of Freedom arrives in theaters nationwide over the July 4th, 2023 weekend.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic