Sound of Freedom arrives in UK cinemas with a distinct stench of controversy. The film has been accused of being “QAnon-adjacent” and described as “faith based”, much to director Alejandro Monteverde’s annoyance as he told us in our exclusive interview.
It’s certainly easy to see why Sound of Freedom would appeal to the far right of the US; it’s a classic, American hero’s journey and to top it all off, it’s a true story. Kind of.
Jim Caviezel stars as Tim Ballard, a government agent tasked with catching child molesters. He’s world-weary and disenchanted with his work. Even if he catches the monsters, the victims rarely make it and as Ballard points out to a colleague, they’re often held overseas.
After Ballard rescues a young boy, Miguel, he becomes obsessed with also rescuing his sister, Rocio, still held captive. Ballard recruits Vampiro (Bill Camp, excellent), a former mob accountant who now works to save child sex slaves to help in an ambitious plan to save not just one life, but many.
For the most part, Sound of Freedom is competently made, if achingly formulaic, thriller. The conversation around the film has mostly focused on external forces, such as lead actor Jim Caviezel’s political stances (he has been linked with QAnon, a conspiracy theory that proposes that the liberal elite are satanic paedophiles). If you take all of that noise away, regardless of how accurate it might be, what you’re left with is a completely fine, slightly uninspiring film.
At 131 minutes, Sound of Freedom is a bore. While the story itself is somewhat compelling, there’s not enough tension to sustain such a long runtime. Monteverde often succumbs to melodrama, which is completely unnecessary as such a dark, striking subject matter alone is enough to communicate the stakes here.
“This job tears you to pieces and this is my one chance to put those pieces together,” Caviezel murmurs as Ballard. He is presented as a lone wolf, a quiet, righteous hero. Caviezel plays him completely straight, like a strange concoction of James Bond and Batman. Monteverde blurs the line between fiction and reality; the real Ballard did indeed organise an island raid to take down a whole trafficking ring, but the film takes heavy creative licence and is, ultimately, a completely fictional film.
Camp gets an emotional monologue in the middle of the film and the scene is far better than anything that has come before it and anything that follows. While Sound of Freedom has these individual moments of excellence, it never comes together for a fluid, entertaining whole. Strange editing choices make the film feel disjointed and erratic and while Sicario has clearly been an influence here, Sound of Freedom never reaches the elegance of Denis Villeneuve’s film.
It’s not all bad. The island operation is thrilling to watch and here is where Monteverde’s direction is at its most confident. Another standout scene comes later when Ballard and Vampiro are looking for Rocio and entering the rebel territory of Colombia. It’s just a shame that Sound of Freedom has a few of these highly interesting, tense sequences that showcase the story’s potential but the film is let down by the scenes in between them.
As it turns out, Sound of Freedom is all bark, but it has no bite. Despite raising awareness on a difficult, but important subject matter, Sound of Freedom becomes a victim of its own lack of ambition.
Sound of Freedom is in UK cinemas 1 September.