Despite Sound of Freedom‘s surprise success at the American box office, the hype is unwarranted.
Behind the hype
The hype behind Sound of Freedom is in large part a symptom of America’s chronic division. It has quickly become a new battlefield in the culture war.
A film derided by liberal outlets as a film which “plays to the QAnon crowd” and is “designed to appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer”; is equally hailed by conservative outlets as “harrowing but important” and “giving us more of a heartfelt story than Hollywood has in years”.
But, after all the endless chattering: Is it a good movie?
The answer is no and here’s why.
The film is based on the true story of anti-human trafficking activist Tim Ballard (Jim Caviezel). The story unfolds with Tim Ballard close to retirement.
He is working for the US government where his job is to capture paedophiles. Although he is successful at the job, Ballard wants to save the children instead. He tries to get to heart of the problem.
The paedophile at the start of the movie (Kris Avedisian) was honestly one of the funniest casting decisions ever made. This man was the most paedo-looking paedophile I’ve ever seen. Easily could have been straight out of a Brass Eye sketch. They should have just written “NONCE ALERT” on his forehead. Just in case the audience didn’t quite get that he was a bad guy.
Lack of character growth and real action
The only reason I bring this up is because it becomes a running theme throughout the movie. A desire to spoon-feed the audience through depictions of paedophiles and the sex traffickers as absolutely evil and the main protagonists as absolutely good. While I’m not suggesting that the evil characters in the film should be more morally neutral characters (we are dealing with paedophiles after all).
What I am saying is this desire to deal in moral absolutes prevents any kind of dramatic conflict and character growth. All Tim Ballard has to do in Sound of Freedom is be Tim Ballard. That’s it. Watching the film felt like watching someone speed running through a Mario game, flying past each obstacle with ease. I was never at the edge of my seat trying to see if Tim Ballard would come out alive and tell the tale.
He was already capable of doing everything he needed to do to save the day right at the start of the movie. So, what’s the point?
Where’s the story?
This lack of dramatic confrontation, suspense and character growth creates a flimsy story. The film only bears a proud message and nothing more.
The message of the film also seemed to be poorly expressed through the language of cinema. The sequence where Ballard is trying to convince a wealthy man who has worked with the US government on sting operations in past to fund the sex hotel is very poorly accomplished and Ballard seems for a moment to just talk to the audience. Only towards the end of the sequence do we realise that he is actually talking to the wealthy man. I don’t see why the scene couldn’t just be a tense exchange with the wealthy man without the preach directly to the audience. We’re not stupid.
The message of the movie is reiterated at the audience in the credits with the “special message”. This is in order to seemingly soothe the emotions of the audience and call them to action. SHARE on social media and be part of a movement.
At the end of the day, this film is more like a message with a film to add on to it. The language of cinema is how a film conveys messages, through pictures and in the context of dramatic structure. Otherwise, I might as well just nod off because when I wake up I will have missed nothing.
Sound of Freedom is in cinemas now.
Featured Image Credit: Angel Studios