The words “based on a true story” are red flag number one.
The Sound of Freedom is a partially crowd-funded, low-budget thriller. The main character, Timothy Ballard, is hamstrung by his employers, the US Department of Homeland Security, while working to arrest paedophiles.
What Ballard really wants to do is head to South America where much of the trade in children to the United States allegedly comes from and arrest the abductors before they get the chance to traffic the children.
The film initially focuses on a father from Honduras who is enticed into taking his children to a talent audition in a local hotel and is told to return at seven that evening.
Of course, when he returns, the room is empty. The children have clearly been abducted and are entering the first stages of being trafficked.
Frustrated that he is unable to take substantial action while on US soil, Ballard heads to South America, teams up with local law enforcement and a former member of the Cali cartel who appears to have found God, and they begin the process of constructing an elaborate sting operation where abducted children can be saved.
The first child of the Honduran man has already been found at the Mexico/US border. But his older sister is nowhere to be found, including during the sting operation on a small island.
So Ballard takes it upon himself to enter the deepest jungles of Colombia and save her himself because “God’s children are not for sale”. That’s red flag number two.
Earlier, before he heads into the jungle, there’s a conversation with the former Cali cartel boss. The erstwhile drug trafficker and mass murderer confesses to Ballard that he nearly committed suicide and put a gun to his head, but heard, “If God tells you what to do, you don’t hesitate”.
That’s red flag number … well, you get the gist.
All of this is fairly low-rent thriller stuff but made understandably graphic given the subject matter is child abduction. However, the acting is perfunctory, the storyline writes itself, the script is cod ordinary and the director mostly seems to be there in name only.
All that said, this is where things kind of get murky.
On the surface of it, I’d rate this film a two out of five event. But it’s worth mentioning the back story of Jim Caviezal, who plays Ballard.
Caviezel (whom you may remember from Mel Gibson’s dreadful The Passion of the Christ) is a well-known right-wing Christian QAnon conspiracy theorist. Even though this film does not go into the darkest recesses of that movement, it’s been widely praised on QAnon message boards telling stories about Americans freeing South American children.
The claims are dubious.
Even though Ballard (who is also a conspiracy theorist) did do some of the things mentioned in the movie, he didn’t do a lot of what’s already carried out by actual South American Police forces who deal with this horror every day.
To somehow argue that the great saviour of these children is almost solely from the USA is both naive and grossly incorrect.
The film doesn’t venture too deeply into the really crazy theories, but how often do you need to hear a line like, “Hear that? It’s the sound of freedom”?
The Sound of Freedom is screening at Dendy.
Marcus Kelson is a Canberra writer and critic.