Sound of Freedom Parent Guide
This film's praiseworthy goal of ending child trafficking is ironically undermined by its own simplistic solutions.
Parent Movie Review
For twelve years, Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezel) has worked for Homeland Security, catching hundreds of child predators. There’s some satisfaction in getting these men off the streets, but Ballard is increasingly haunted by the faces of the child victims. Then he meets Miguel Aguilar (Lucás Ávila)...
Miguel is from Honduras, where he lived happily with his father (José Zúñiga) and sister, Rocío (Cristal Aparicio). When Señor Aguilar was approached about having his talented daughter audition for a TV show, he agreed and brought his children to the designated site. The children were seized by traffickers, leaving the grieving, enraged father with no way to get them back.
Several months later, Tim Ballard finds Miguel at the US/Mexican border while tracing the supply network of a child porn user. Upon hearing the eight-year-old’s appalling tale of abduction and abuse, Ballard is overwhelmed by his desire to save other children, particularly Miguel’s sister. Backtracking through Miguel’s movements, Ballard determines that Rocío is probably in Colombia, so he persuades his boss to authorize an official operation in Cartagena. When the funding is pulled, Ballard finds himself embarking on a new career rescuing abused children.
Sound of Freedom is an unlikely summer blockbuster, but blockbuster it is. It took five years to jump from cutting room floor to theaters, only to see record ticket sales. In my mid-size city, the original release was so limited I couldn’t get a ticket until the release went wide. This is the only time in my career that I have been unable to purchase tickets for a movie on opening day. The overwhelming popularity of this film is the reason that this review is late: I had to wait to see it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the movie is worth the wait. Tim Ballard has a powerful (if controversial) story to tell and his urgent plea to save trafficked children is critically important. But the movie itself is a feel-good hero’s story that overvalues vigilante action and ignores critical factors behind the human trafficking plague. To be brutally honest, a man like Ballard can save a few hundred kids – which is great for them – but he can’t unravel the complex criminal networks that enable this abusive system to flourish. The solution to child trafficking is multifactorial and requires addressing the consumers whose money is the lifeblood of these networks, giving victims and their families meaningful access to the justice system in their home countries, ending police corruption that enables trafficking, and working with tech companies to end the online distribution of child porn. This sickening crime won’t be resolved by a “man with a plan”: it requires global cooperation and development on a massive scale. Awareness is good, but coordinated international action is better.
At this point, I need to point out that the whole issue of exploiting children kept popping up in my head as I queasily watched parts of the movie. Let me be clear – no children are abused on screen and negative content is carefully minimized – but there are repeated scenes of terrified children huddling on beds as predatory adults loom over them. Frankly, I think Ballard’s story would be better told as a documentary. Even as a movie-with-a-message, Sound of Freedom feels off-balance. It mixes the terror of the children’s captivity with the go-get-em excitement of Ballard’s sting operation. The cause is just, but turning these children’s horrors into popcorn entertainment just feels wrong.
Directed by Alejandro Monteverde. Starring Jim Caviezel, Cristal Aparicio, Lucas Avila, Jose Zuniga, Bill Camp. Running time: 131 minutes. Theatrical release July 4, 2023. Updated August 12, 2023
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Sound of Freedom
Rating & Content Info
Why is Sound of Freedom rated PG-13? Sound of Freedom is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic content involving sex trafficking, violence, language, sexual references, some drug references and smoking throughout
Violence: There are multiple scenes of child abductions. Children are manhandled by adults. A girl is slapped in the face by a man. A girl is seen with cuts and abrasions after being abducted. Children are forced into a shipping container and sent on an ocean voyage of unspecified duration. Men have a fight and one kills the other. Guns are repeatedly pointed at people and are frequently fired. A child is tattooed against her will. A man mentions an attempted suicide with a firearm. A woman coaches children to pose provocatively for photographs. Police knock a man to the ground. Police officers threaten suspects to build a case. There are scenes of implied sexual abuse which occurs off-screen.
Sexual Content: There are repeated scenes of children huddling on beds, frightened of men looming over them. Child sexual abuse is repeatedly discussed without any explicit detail. Some scenes imply off-screen sexual abuse. Child pornography is discussed without detail. Law enforcement personnel watch child porn for evidentiary purposes but none of it is seen on screen and it is never discussed in detail.
Profanity: The script contains three scatological curses, a half dozen crude anatomical expressions, and two minor profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There are frequent scenes of adults overindulging in alcohol and smoking cigarettes and cigars. A man is given drugs to use on a captive child. A man mimes snorting cocaine. There is mention of people’s past work with drug cartels.
Page last updated August 12, 2023
Sound of Freedom Parents' Guide
If you wonder how accurate the movie is, you can check the link below:
Tim Ballard started Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) a charity to rescue children who are being trafficked and sexually abused. You can access their website here. More detail about OUR can be found on Wikipedia: Operation Underground Railroad
Other groups that raise awareness of child trafficking and offer support to victims include:
Save the Children: The Fight Against Child Trafficking
UNICEF: Child Trafficking
The long-term effects of Ballard’s raids have been hotly debated and you can check out some of the arguments below:
Slate: Called by God
Related home video titles:
Noise tells the story of a Mexican mother who goes in search of her missing daughter – one of over 100,000 Mexicans (mostly women) who have gone missing in real life.
In Missing, a teenager uses technology to search for her mother who disappeared on a romantic trip to Colombia.