There are few things more annoying in life than a story that’s clearly being told for ulterior motives. Whether it’s a guilt-tripping relative, a nagging coworker, or a tug-at-the-heartstrings-style ad, there’s nothing worse than the feeling that the story you’re being told is trying to sneakily give you a message that isn’t related to the narrative at hand. In case you’re struggling to come up with examples, you can find heavy-handedness everywhere in modern movies, from the blatant race narratives in Zootopia to the barely-veiled imperialism narratives in Avatar. In some strange way, preachiness steals a part of a movie’s ability to compel; it becomes impossible to fully buy into a story’s twists and turns when you know that there’s some kind of ideological sales pitch coming.
Good news—Sound of Freedom isn’t that kind of movie. Although it certainly has a message bigger than itself, it’s a story-first film. Starring Jim Caviezel as Special Agent Tim Ballard, the film traces Ballard’s journey from catching child porn producers in the United States to tracking down human traffickers in South America. Freedom’s narrative switches between Ballard’s thriller-style hero’s journey and the horrifying story of the two children he’s seeking to rescue: Miguel and Rocío, kidnapped and trafficked thousands of miles away from their home in Honduras. Ballard fights villains ranging from American child predators to Colombian rebels, fighting incredible odds in a struggle to return Miguel and Rocío to their father in Tegucigalpa.
Let’s be real here: Sound of Freedom is a good movie. It’s well-shot, well-constructed, and the characters are believable, realistic, and nuanced. Ballard’s fairly-subtle Christianity shows through, but in small ways that don’t generally take away from the movie’s flow; he quotes the New Testament’s “millstone around the neck” verse before arresting a pedophile, but the scene doesn’t hinge on it. You could completely take Ballard’s Christianity out of Freedom and the movie would be every bit as compelling—for Christians and conservatives in the arts, that might be a useful litmus test for how to portray such things.
That said, there are a few cheesy moments of dialogue. In one scene, sidekick Vampiro points out the laughter and clamor of recently-freed trafficking victims to Ballard.
Vampiro: Hear that?
Me, mentally, in the theater: Oh, please don’t, come on, that’s so obvious…
Vampiro: That’s the sound of freedom.
…roll credits, as CinemaSins would say.
Yet, such moments are very few and the storytelling is overall incredibly tight. So why is this film generating controversy? It has to do with contentions over the sensationalized nature of some of the portrayal (it’s a movie, folks), as well as comments made by star Caviezel, including a segment on Steve Bannon’s podcast where he talks about adrenochrome and (maybe?) winks and nods at some QAnon stuff (ignore the fact that the script was written 2 years before QAnon was even a thing).
Here’s the truth about that for people who are offended by such issues—it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make Sound of Freedom less of a good movie. It doesn’t make Ballard’s mission less important. It doesn’t make the message of the film any less heartbreaking (I was in tears multiple times throughout the movie). It’s a non-issue for people who just watch movies and then leave the theater, and that takes us to the only really annoying thing about Sound of Freedom—the fact that it’s not allowed to just be a good movie.
In a message delivered after the end credits, Caviezel tells audiences that “the most powerful person in this world is the storyteller.” He is right—and it’s a lesson that we need to shout from the rooftops every day until people get that message. Freedom’s job was to tell a story. It did so, in tear-jerking and well-composed fashion. Isn’t that enough?
Its critics seem to be saying that filmmakers are not only responsible for the quality of their films but also responsible for the reaction of every QAnon nutcase who happens to see their pet causes lionized in the film—that’s an impossible burden and a dumb argument to boot. We’re asking too much from films like Sound of Freedom when we expect them to be cultural tide-turners. Sometimes just being a good movie is enough to create influence. In this case, the influence is certainly there.
This isn’t a film for conservatives or Christians or QAnon supporters or the pitiable people who happen to be all three. It’s a film for ordinary people who care about saving children and want compelling stories—in a world where slavery affects millions of children, there’s no more important message
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.