As the story behind the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of the formation of Operation Underground Railroad and its fight against global child sex trafficking, "Sound of Freedom" is disturbing, painful, informational, and yet hopeful, all at the same time.
It's also a must-see film.
I invited my wife to go with me, even though I knew she would say, "No thank you" because it would be too hard for her to watch.
So instead, I found myself sitting alone in a mostly full theatre in South Jordan, Utah midday yesterday, the day the United States celebrates its independence, its freedom, to experience Sound of Freedom firsthand.
And as expected, my spirit was touched, my eyes were opened, my heart was broken, my mind was expanded, and my soul became hopeful yet resolved to do something, anything, to help fight the evil that has led to an estimated 30 million children being dragged into child sex trafficking in the last 30 years. (Youth Underground)
That is why I'm writing this piece this morning.
Origins: Operation Underground Railroad and Sound of Freedom
For those who do not know, the story behind the movie (Sound of Freedom) starts roughly a decade ago with Tim Ballard, who (MormonWiki states), is a former operative with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security*.
According to the backstory played-out in the film, Ballard decides to leave government employ to fight against child kidnapping and child sex trafficking because his employer restricted his work to cases only involving American citizens.
That decision led to the launch of Operation Underground Railroad, a 501(c)(3) organization now based in Salt Lake City**.
And as its website proclaims,
Ballard's role in the film is powerfully played by Jim Caviezel, the acclaimed actor known almost as much for his powerful portrayals of Jesus in The Passion of Christ and Edmond in The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as his passion for christianity (in general) and his devotion to Catholicism, specifically.
Fascinatingly, I recently learned that although filming and production on the movie started and completed in 2018, distribution was shelved by The Walt Disney Company after it acquired 20th Century Fox.
That acquisition, coupled with the movie-going-disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021, kept Sound of Freedom locked-up until Provo, Utah-based Angel Studios acquired the distribution rights earlier this year.
Upon announcing the decision to release the film on July 4th, America's "Independence Day," Angel Studios described the movie as
"... a true story of one man’s heroic efforts as he embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue children from human traffickers."
For his part, Caviezel stated, "... this is the second most important film I’ve done after The Passion of the Christ.”
Reviews and Recommendations
According to multiple news sources, Sound of Freedom opened yesterday on over 2,600 screens around the country, with advance ticket and Pay-it-Forward sales topping a reported $10 million.
Noted review website, Rotten Tomatoes, gave Sound of Freedom
- A "Tomatometer" Score of 85% (based upon 13 reviews), while
- The Audience Score netted out at 99%.
Given the Tomatometer Score noted above, it's not surprising that reviews are overwhelmingly positive across the board.
Of them, the review that surprised and pleased me the most was the one penned by Owen Gliberman, noted critic with Variety.
"...let’s assume that, like me, you’re not a right-wing fundamentalist conspiracy theorist looking for a dark, faith-based suspense film to see over the holiday weekend.... Even then, you needn’t hold extreme beliefs to experience 'Sound of Freedom' as a compelling movie that shines an authentic light on one of the crucial criminal horrors of our time, one that Hollywood has mostly shied away from....
"But as 'Sound of Freedom' informs us, it’s the fastest growing international criminal network the world has ever seen. A closing title states — accurately — that there are more people enslaved now, by sex trafficking, than there were when slavery was legal. And the nightmare lived by captured children is unspeakable, unimaginable…and all too real. Let’s be clear: This matters more than the cocaine or opioids industry." (Emphasis added)
Did you catch that?!?!?!
Gliberman explains to his readers that child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of children MATTERS MORE THAN THE COCAINE OR OPIODS INDUSTRY!!!
No question, he's spot-on with this declaration.
And, I might add (as Caviezel did in the movie):
"It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."***
Sound of Freedom: My Take
Is Sound of Freedom a perfect film. It is not. In my book I'd give it an 8.5 out of 10.
However, is it the perfect film for our time? It is. Unquestionably.
In fact, I suspect Sound of Freedom is both the
- The most important film I will see this year, and
- The most important commercial film I've watched during the past decade.
I know that I felt overwhelmingly passionate about protecting children when we had our own little ones living at home.
But now that I'm a grandpa ... well, let's just say that there is virtually nothing I would not do to prevent harm from coming to any child or infant, let alone the Poppa Bear feelings I have when it comes to my own grandkids.
So ... if you have not yet seen Sound of Freedom yet, I highly recommend you do so.
At a minimum, I believe you will come away better informed and, perhaps, feeling more empowered to help fight against this terrible evil spreading not just around the globe, but also here in the "Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave."
Additionally, Angel Studios has a Pay-it-Forward program that enables individuals to purchase tickets so others can go see the movie for free.
Operation Underground Railroad has several opportunities for individuals and organizations to get involved with its fight against child sex trafficking and child sex exploitation.
I invite you to reach out to either organization, if you are so inclined.
Last of all, if you've not see it yet, here's an official trailer for Sound of Freedom.
* - I am not suggesting Ballard did not work with/for the CIA or Homeland Security; it's just that neither has apparently confirmed his employment.
** - Several online sources state that OUR is based in California, but the organization's current filings with the Internal Revenue Service show its actual headquarters are in Salt Lake City.
*** - Jesus Christ, as quoted in Luke 17:2.