On July 4, the “Sound of Freedom” opened in more than 2,600 movie theaters across America, surpassing Disney’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” as the number one grossing film on Independence Day.
The $14.5 million independent film that Variety called “this summer’s unlikely box office hit” has grossed more than $53 million at the time of this writing. Produced by Eduardo Verástegui and directed by Alejandro Monteverde, the “Sound of Freedom” ended the July 7-9 weekend with a No. 3 finish, despite showing in 1,748 fewer theaters than No. 2 “Indiana Jones” and 336 fewer theaters than No. 1 “Insidious: The Red Door.”
Based on true events and starring Jim Caviezel as former Department of Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard, the film tells the heroic story of Ballard leaving his career behind and dedicating his life to liberate children from the horrors of sex trafficking and exploitation.
Distributed by Angel Studios, the film highlights the consequential work of Operation Underground Railroad, a private foundation founded by Ballard in 2013. Operation Underground Railroad provides support for law enforcement in the U.S. and partners with international governments to rescue children from the scourge of sex trafficking and to assist with aftercare for survivors.
To date, Operation Underground Railroad has been involved in more than 4,000 operations, impacted more than 7,000 lives, and been involved in more than 6,500 arrests.
As Angel Studios Head of Theatrical Distribution Brandon Purdie said, “We’re getting messages from all over the country telling us about packed theaters, sold-out theaters, and spontaneous standing ovations for the film in numerous locations.”
Yet despite its audience reception, critics have attempted to write off the film’s credibility by reducing it to a right-wing conspiracy theory recruitment tool. Rolling Stone critic Miles Klee, for example, called it a “QAnon-tinged thriller,” and a “superhero movie for dads with brainworms,” while The Guardian critic Charles Bramesco described the film as “paranoid” and “QAnon-adjacent.”
Such politically motivated dismissals work to take away from the reality that trafficked and exploited children and youth tragically face every day.
In the 2022, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received more than 19,000 reports of possible child sex trafficking, and its CyberTipline received 31.9 million reports of child pornography. Additionally, research by Snapchat’s parent company recently found that approximately two of every three teenagers are targeted by sextortion schemes, a crime by which victims are manipulated or coerced into creating and sharing explicit content with predators. Further, according to an article published in the MIT Technology Review, research from the Internet Watch Foundation found that the United States hosts more child sexual abuse content online than any other country.
Ballard’s experience as a federal agent exposed him to such egregious crimes targeting children and youth (in describing his first case he said what he encountered was so horrific that he fell to his knees). Before the founding of O.U.R., Ballard spent more than 10 years working as a Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security. He worked on both the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and served as an undercover operative for the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team.
Through decades of fighting child sex trafficking and working to rescue the most vulnerable in our society, Ballard’s faith in Jesus Christ has sustained him. As Ballard said, his faith in God “gives [him] clarity and courage to do things [he] otherwise wouldn’t dream of doing in order to help children.”
But as the film makes clear, there is still much more work to be done. “Sound of Freedom” invites audiences across America to join the fight to end human trafficking.
As Jim Caviezel said, “I think we can make ‘Sound of Freedom’ the ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ of 21st century slavery.”
“Sound of Freedom” is a consequential movie that highlights the global crisis of child trafficking and exploitation that resolutely calls for an end to this horrific scourge.