Sound of Freedom movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Sound of Freedom movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert (1)

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“Sound of Freedom,” the movie of the moment, has a message first, and a story second. Its message is to get us to care more about the horrors of child sex trafficking. It does that by showing queasy sequences of kids in danger, being carted around by slimy adults, and making us remember everyone’s faces. Then it gives us a weary hero, Tim Ballard, an American man whose superpower is that he cares. This father and husbandcares so much that he leaves his job at Homeland Security ten months before earning a pension. Instead of only catching pedophiles, as he has done nearly 300 times before, he goes to Colombiaand undercover to help rescue children. This man is played by a gentle and gravely serious Jim Caviezel, who shoulders this message’s suffering just like when he played Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”


The story is true, but it barely comes to life with such a telling. Which is a shame, not just because it’s uncomfortable to be numbed by these themes, but also because director Alejandro Monteverde well-clears the low bar for filmmaking one expects from movies that are message-first (and often come with similar faith-driven backers). Take away the noise surrounding it, and “Sound of Freedom” has distinct cinematic ambitions: a non-graphic horror film with what could be called anart-house sensibility for muted rage and precise, striking shadows derived from an already bleak world. If “Sound of Freedom” were less concerned with being something "important," it could be more than a mood, it could be a movie.

All on its own, “Sound of Freedom” is a solemn, drawn-out bore with a not particularly bold narrative stance—caring about the safety of children is roughly the easiest cause for any remotely decent human being. Previous films like “Gone Baby Gone” and “Taken” have also banked on that tension, showing how easy it is to be invested in a story when children are stolen and put into uncertain danger. But while being so committed to such solemnity and suffering, the truncated storytelling by co-writers Monteverde and Rod Barr neglects to flesh out its ideas or characters or add any more intensity to Ballard’s slow-slow-slow burn search for two kids in particular (Lucás Ávila’s Miguel and Cristal Aparicio’s Rocío) whose faces haunt him. The “true story” framing only gives it so much edge before that, too, is dulled.

This world is so fraught with worry about the children that it seems to avoid creating tension elsewhere, and so it places Ballard in dull scenes opposite gullible one-dimensional creeps; his undercover missions, which sometimes have him speaking like the pedophiles he is pursuing, are more about the audience’s discomfort than his danger. There are hardly any mind games to be played, just the settings of sting operations made from a broad idea of how this would happen in real life.It's one anti-climactic moment after another, and while it's intriguing how Monteverde leans away from violence or machismo, it puts little else in its place. (For anyone gearing up to see "Sound of Freedom" because the poster has Caviezel holding a gun and a glare, this isn’t that kind of movie.)


Handsomely stark scenes are often reduced to three or four lines of dialogue, including the eureka moment of how Ballard gets involved in the process. A work buddy asks him how many children he’s saved, so Ballard changes his line of work. Mira Sorvino, as Ballard’s wife Katherine, plays a character who is credited at the end as inspiring his whole journey, but we only hear from her a couple of cliche sentences at a time. We at least get to hear more from Bill Camp, playing a confidant for Ballard. Camp has agutting monologue about being at the heart ofdarkness of child sexual abuse. He’s also there to say the movie’s title and sets up Ballard to say its catchphrase, which you can now buy as a bumper sticker: “God’s children are not for sale.”

With his blonde hair cutting through the movie’s gray and black palette, Caviezel is a crucial anchor for this hollow character study to be taken as seriously as possible. It's an intriguing, restrained performancebut loses its appeal parallel to how the movie doesn’t develop Ballard beyond being a symbol. A casual YouTube searchon the real Ballard shows that he’s a far more outspoken, hyper type than we see here. It suggests a different tone for such a character-focused story, and one wonders why the makers were weary of it.

“Sound of Freedom” takes place in, and posits to be, a tough conversation piece about the world of child sex trafficking, but it’s hardly any more informational than a horror movie about bogeymen. A few factoids about the pervasiveness ofmodern slavery are shared in text at the end, and there’s a note about how Ballard's dedication helpedpass legislationthat made international cooperation on such stings more possible, but these notes are overshadowed by “Sound of Freedom” yet again being misguided and making the cause about itself. As the end credits play, Jim Caviezel re-appears to say howthe makers of “Sound of Freedom” believe this movie could be the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin for 21st-century slavery.” He says that the children shown in the movie are the real heroes but spends most of the time trying to empower you, the people, to spread the word, scan the QR code, and buy more tickets so other people can see this movie and put an end to this horror. But there’s little transparency hereabout how seeing Monteverde's film can help stop child sex trafficking, as this movie suggests. The suspiciousness of"Sound of Freedom" is queasy itself.

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Film Credits

Sound of Freedom movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert (9)

Sound of Freedom (2023)

Rated PG-13for thematic content involving sex trafficking, violence, language, sexual references, some drug references and smoking throughout.

131 minutes


Jim Caviezelas Tim Ballard

Mira Sorvinoas Katherine Ballard

Bill Campas Batman

Kurt Fulleras Frost

Gerardo Taracenaas El Alacrán

José Zúñigaas Roberto

Scott Hazeas Chris

Gary Basarabaas Earl Buchanan

Eduardo Verásteguias Paul


  • Alejandro Monteverde


  • Alejandro Monteverde
  • Rod Barr


  • Gorka Gómez Andreu


  • Brian Scofield


  • Javier Navarrete

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Sound of Freedom movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Sound of Freedom movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert? ›

Sound of Freedom

Sound of Freedom
Sound of Freedom is a 2023 American Christian thriller film directed and co-written by Alejandro Monteverde, and starring Jim Caviezel, Mira Sorvino, and Bill Camp. Caviezel plays Tim Ballard, a former U.S. government agent who embarks on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers in Colombia. › wiki › Sound_of_Freedom_(film)
,” the movie of the moment, has a message first, and a story second. Its message is to get us to care more about the horrors of child sex trafficking. It does that by showing queasy sequences of kids in danger, being carted around by slimy adults, and making us remember everyone's faces.

What are the criticisms of the sound of freedom movie? ›

Experts, including Erin Albright, a former fellow for the Department of Justice's anti-trafficking task force, argue that the depiction is inaccurate and sensationalized.

What is the special message at the end of Sound of Freedom? ›

As the credits roll at the end of the film, U.S. audiences saw a timer on the screen counting down to a "special message" which was actor Jim Caviezel, who plays Ballard, urging the audience to tell people about the film but also to "pay it forward" and buy tickets for others who might not be able to afford their own ...

How intense is the sound of freedom? ›

Expect scenes that are very hard to watch. Small children are shown being abducted from loving parents, locked up, manipulated, and sexually exploited. Visuals include very young trafficked children sitting or lying on a bed as a man unbuckles his pants, combined with verbal references to children being raped.

What is the rating of Sound of Freedom? ›

What did Christopher Plummer think of the movie sound of Music? ›

Plummer recalled how he wasn't happy with the 1965 film, other than working with Andrews. "I was a bit bored with the character," he said. Plummer also compared the studio's attempt to make the von Trapp patriarch interesting to "flogging a dead horse," stating that the subject matter just wasn't his "cup of tea."

Why did Disney block Sound of Freedom? ›

Putting to bed any ideas some may have that the studio buried Sound of Freedom intentionally, Monteverde explains that it was merely a victim of circ*mstance following the major deal between Fox and the Walt Disney Company.

What is the true story behind the Sound of Freedom? ›

Billed as a story about the real-life Tim Ballard, a former special agent for the Department of Homeland Security and founder of the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), Sound of Freedom has become mired in controversy over criticisms that it features misleading depictions of child ...

Does Tim survive in The Sound of Freedom? ›

The Sound of Freedom ending contains an epilogue that explains what happened to Tim after he rescued Rocío from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He returned to the United States, where he got to work to pass laws allowing the government to cooperate with foreign officials on sex trafficking cases.

Who is the real Rocío from Sound of Freedom? ›

Played By Cristal Aparicio

Rocío Aguilar is Miguel's sister and the child that Ballard focuses on rescuing throughout the movie. Rocío and her brother, Miguel, are first seen going to what they believe is an audition hosted by Katy-Giselle.

Is vampiro from Sound of Freedom real? ›

Meet the REAL Vampiro from the film "Sound of Freedom" PART 1 Vampiro is known as "Batman" in real life. For years, he was involved with Mexican cartels. Why did he stop? He was done adding to the darkness.

Does The Sound of Freedom have inappropriate scenes? ›

A man shows another man a photo of a very young boy and says that he will have him for the entire weekend (implying for sex). There are a few scenes that takes places in seedy areas including strip clubs. However, no nudity is shown, nor provocative dancing.

Why is The Sound of Freedom a good movie? ›

“Sound of Freedom,” the movie of the moment, has a message first, and a story second. Its message is to get us to care more about the horrors of child sex trafficking. It does that by showing queasy sequences of kids in danger, being carted around by slimy adults, and making us remember everyone's faces.

Did Mel Gibson have anything to do with the movie The Sound of Freedom? ›

Information is spreading on the network that Mel Gibson allegedly made the film “The Sound of Freedom” about the international organized system of child trafficking. However, Mel Gibson did not shoot it. The screenwriter and director of the film is Alejandro Monteverde.

Did Sound of Freedom win any awards? ›

Sound of Freedom won the Septimius Award for best film in Amsterdam!

What parts of the sound of freedom are not true? ›

“Sound of Freedom” was based on a true story but contains dramatized elements. Filmmakers took creative license in portraying the different ways that children can be trafficked, including in shipping containers.

What is the controversy with sound of music? ›

In the book, The Sound of Music Story by Tom Santopietro, Maria took issue with how the film showed the family scaling the Alps to get to Switzerland. Had they really done that, they would have ended up in Germany.

What is the opinion of the movie Freedom Writers? ›

Freedom Writers is a beautiful story that wrenches my heart. I cried several times throughout. It's beautiful and upsetting, but almost carries the same Oscar-baiting drama as films like Crash or Green Book.

Why did Christopher Plummer dislike The Sound of Music? ›

As late as 2010 — though still full of praise for his old friend Julie Andrews — he was happy to wheel out the objections. "I was a bit bored with the character,'' he told The Boston Globe. "Although we worked hard enough to make him interesting, it was a bit like flogging a dead horse.

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