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 a gutting monologue about being at the heart of darkness 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 performance but loses its appeal parallel to how the movie doesn’t develop Ballard beyond being a symbol. A casual YouTube search on 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 of modern slavery are shared in text at the end, and there’s a note about how Ballard’s dedication helped pass legislation that 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 how the 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 here about how seeing Monteverde’s film can help stop child sex trafficking, as this movie suggests. The suspiciousness of “Sound of Freedom” is queasy itself.
Now playing in theaters.