Sound of Freedom
MOVIE | One man takes on the challenge of freeing modern slaves
Full access isn’t far.
We can’t release more of our sound journalism without a subscription, but we can make it easy for you to come aboard.
Get started for as low as $3.99 per month.
Current WORLD subscribers can log in to access content. Just go to "SIGN IN" at the top right.LET'S GO
Already a member? Sign in.
➤ Rated PG-13
Today, tens of millions of people are trapped in slavery—more people than at any other time in human history—and many of these are women and children enslaved by sex traffickers. Sound of Freedom from Angel Studios depicts the exploitation of vulnerable people with a gritty reality, but this based-on-a-true-story feature film also offers a note of hope as it dramatizes one man’s quest to free these slaves.
The movie tells the story of Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad. Ballard left his job with the Department of Homeland Security 10 years ago to rescue children from slavery.
A blond Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) plays Ballard, and the movie opens with his investigation of a child pornography ring as part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Tim has successfully arrested pornographers, but the darkness he’s exposed to starts to take its toll. When a co-worker asks how many kids he’s saved, Tim deflects, claiming he’s only responsible for rounding up the predators. But the question haunts him.
Tim gets permission from his superiors to set up a sting operation that ends with the freeing of a boy who had been stolen from his home in Honduras. The boy tells Tim about his sister who’s still enslaved, but the American bureaucracy tells Tim his investigation is over.
With his wife’s blessing, Tim quits his job and heads to South America, hoping to use his contacts to track down the girl’s whereabouts. Collaborating with both underworld contacts and local authorities, Tim devises another sting operation to capture enslavers and rescue children, this time on a much larger scale.
Sound of Freedom, directed and co-written by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Monteverde, is a well-crafted movie with an important message. The evenly paced script follows Tim’s single-minded quest to rescue one young girl, but it introduces a secondary problem, asking whether our current systems and resources are sufficient to address human trafficking.
Caviezel brings a riveting intensity tinged with despair to Tim’s moral toughness, and the movie gets a boost from a strong secondary cast. Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino plays Tim’s wife, who encourages his desire to find the missing child, and the reliably entertaining Bill Camp plays one of Tim’s unsavory allies with both humor and sadness. The movie also boasts high production values, with much of it filmed on location in Colombia. The beauty and the poverty of the setting seem a fitting metaphor for the children’s innocence and the wickedness they’re trapped in.
The movie is rated PG-13 for a couple of instances of profanity and its heavy subject matter. Sound of Freedom avoids graphic depictions, but merely talking about sexual abuse against children makes for a disturbing film. The film actually flinches from some of the worst horrors of sex trafficking. It only depicts children kidnapped from their families—not those sold or forced into prostitution by their own parents.
The real-life Tim Ballard is a somewhat controversial person. Detractors view him as a vigilante and question his unorthodox methods, especially his sting operations. They also accuse him of self-promotion and exaggerating the stories surrounding Operation Underground Railroad, noting some of the women he rescued from prostitution weren’t trafficked.
But whatever one thinks of Ballard personally, one can’t deny that he has freed hundreds of women and children from the sex trade. He would likely concur with a quip attributed to D.L. Moody: “I like my way of doing things better than your way of not doing them.”
Sound of Freedom is a wake-up call, reminding Americans of the evil that’s perpetrated both inside and outside our borders. The movie doesn’t belabor its faith-based roots, but it repeats the refrain, “God’s children are not for sale,” reminding us that the rights and dignity inherent to humanity derive from our Creator.