If Sound of Freedom had been released by a major studio in the United States, or even an indie studio with “cred” in the industry, we would all be talking about the plight of children in the sex trafficking rings around the world, but particularly in the poorest countries. There would be reports on 60 Minutes. Variety and Deadline would post op-eds with concerned headlines to show they care.
What did we get instead? The first thing was that every headline about the movie or the studio had “faith-based” written into the headline, as if to say — don’t care about this movie because the “God people” made it. The second was your typical mass hysteria reaction to the success of the film, unprecedented in today’s climate for an outsider independent film to do that well.
Then, came the screeching and hysteria — QAnon this, Steve Bannon that, “right-wing” this, Trump that. And indeed, this film had no choice but to appeal to the Right, or as some condescendingly sneer, the “Fox news crowd.” Ugh, what a mess.
No society, much less any empire, can survive as an elite minority ruling over an abandoned majority. That’s what history tells us, and yet we seem hellbent on repeating the pattern. For most of Hollywood’s history, as far as I can tell, the money and power belonged to the Conservatives. That meant the Left, such as it was, wrote the work that challenged the system, pushed back against it, and wrote about the ordinary lives of working class for decades.
But not so in 2023. It has not only reversed itself, but those at the top, with all of the money, all of the power, all of the culture, and who essentially dominate Hollywood not only shut out the majority of Americans, but they actively disdain them. Trump was the catalyst that justified this shameful snobbery — and as long as they see him as the threat, there is no escaping this madness.
That is why stories are so hard to tell now. How to speak truth to power when you ARE the power? How to write about the lives of ordinary Americans if you not only do not know them anymore but actively disdain them? If the litmus test is that movies have to always be strictly party-line to be invited to the country club, well, then, that self-defeating, especially when a good one like this comes along.
Sound of Freedom is that good movie, with strong performances at its center, that brings lots of people out to the movies who had long since given up on movies, earns an A+ Cinemascore and a 100% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is receiving not just applause throughout the film but, in some theaters in some places, standing ovations, you can’t just ignore that. Or I can’t anyway.
Let’s just clear things up for you right now so you can not flip out about what you probably think is a “QAnon movie.” First, the movie is based on a true story that was written about six years ago, long before any of the stories about QAnon emerged. It also isn’t QAnon — which is a conspiracy theory that those at the top are running secret pedophile rings. This movie doesn’t make that claim and isn’t about that. It’s about this:
If you’re interested in the background of the movie, there is lots of info online about Tim Ballard and his work in various countries finding and saving kids from abuse. What’s so bizarre, and frankly horrifying, is how little coverage any of it has gotten in light of the film’s success. That’s what cowards we have in our media now — not just those who cover mainstream news but those who cover movies. Their hysteria over MAGA overrides their concern for impoverished children lured away from their families and forced into sex slavery.
Sound of Freedom is tightly directed, well written, and holds our attention throughout. There is no fat on this thing, not a false moment or a bad performance. Co-written (with Rod Barr) and directed by Alejandro Monteverde, Sound of Freedom is anchored by the extraordinary Jim Caviezel, with strong supporting work by Bill Camp. I don’t know what to tell you people. They’re great in this movie and both are Oscar-worthy.
Sound of Freedom, in fact, would not work without Caviezel whose stillness is as compelling as the more emotional scenes. It’s in the eyes. You can’t look away. As Ballard, Caviezel travels to various countries like Columbia to unravel intricate networks that mostly serve rich Americans. Everyone knows this happens in the poorest of countries, yet few agents are willing to put themselves on the line like Ballard did. He’s a hero, and bringing his important story to the public matters.
Critical Drinker’s review of the film already has 1.2 million views:
My only criticism of the movie — which I find to be expertly directed, written and acted — is Mira Sorvino’s role. I wish there was more of her and I think she was wasted with just a few lines here or there. But that’s a minor complaint. This is the kind of movie you just don’t see much anymore, but were once one of the reasons I became such a fan of movies. It’s a moody, well-paced, suspenseful thriller with a heart.
It’s not an action movie. It is, instead, as Critical Drinker says, “a tense character drama,” like The Silence of the Lambs. And I agree that Caviezel gives a knock-out performance and will be among the best of the year, without a doubt. Does that mean the industry will give this film a chance? Nope. It does not. In fact, they’re doing the opposite. They’re trying to discredit and destroy it because of course they are.
They should all hang their heads in shame
One of my favorite new critics on YouTube, NerdWord, also has a great rundown of the film vs. the mass hysteria, opening her review with this, “I don’t think I can properly describe how insidious it is that major news outlets can discredit a film about such an important and harrowing topic.”
The only upside to this unbelievable reaction to this movie by the mainstream media is that it exposes them for the frauds they really are. They are just on autopilot and those who trust them and listen to them are directed how they should feel too, how they should react, and that they should stay away if they want to be both Good Puritans in Salem AND responsible citizens. That this film found success anyway is a testament to their fading power.
The press is actively attacking not just the film but Ballard himself, like this is some kind of political war — for what? People liked a movie that wasn’t made by Hollywood? Shouldn’t that tell you something? They have to try to discredit and destroy a hero who saved children from sex slavery and all because WAAA Trump? Is this really where we are, Rolling Stone? How the mighty have fallen:
Look at some of these headlines, no joke:
Congratulations, media, your ongoing efforts to destroy art AND entertainment appear to be working — well, not for Sound of Freedom, which is succeeding despites those efforts, but shame about all that remains.
I wonder if people in Hollywood and those in the media really understand just how much they’re hated by so many people in this country? It’s unseemly to watch those with all of the status, all of the money, all of the culture, all of the media behave this way just because someone finally made a movie people actually want to see and actually like.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this strange paradigm we’ve all built for ourselves not just in the Oscar race but Hollywood writ large. It seems to become more insular by the day. We keep hoping for Hollywood to be saved and that movies won’t tank like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny tanked. Yet when a film like his comes along, and tops the box office AND Indiana Jones, with ZERO help from the bloggerati that cover movies, zero help from the publicity machine, everyone just pretends like it didn’t happen.
Every year people ask me what movie I can recommend. What’s good, they want to know. I always pause because I know Hollywood movies now are not made for everyone anymore. They’re made for a specific group of people with specific tastes.
Sound of Freedom is one I can recommend across the board to just about anyone — well, except those who read Rolling Stone, the Guardian, etc. If they’re in the bubble of the Left, there will be no convincing them. The funny thing is that the “faith-based” description will put them off. I used to think that way too, unless the once-free-thinking Left suddenly became “faith-based” in its own way. Now, all bets are off.
Why is this an Oscar contender? It isn’t. But it should be. Any movie that brings in audiences like this one did should be considered. I also argued for the same thing back when The Passion of the Christ made money too. This isn’t that movie, though. This isn’t a “religious” movie.
When I first started my website way back in 1999, one of the things I wanted to accomplish was to change the fixed nature of the Oscar race. I thought that the fix was in, and movies that weren’t the best of the year kept getting nominated. I wondered why. Maybe I could track them from the beginning of the year and try to solve that mystery.
23 years later, I think I can see pretty clearly why the Oscar race feels like a fixed system, a rigged game. And one we all play along with by acting as lobbyists of sorts for studios and pushing the movies designated for the Oscar race. That wasn’t true with last year’s winner, but it’s worth noting by the end of this weekend, Sound of Freedom will have made more money in two weeks of release than Everything Everywhere made in its entire run before and after it won the Oscar.
We’re in the same place we were when I started. The Oscars have stagnated, and so has Hollywood. Everyone should welcome a film that came from nowhere and brought many people to the movies. And yeah, I know that most people who read this site, who write about the Oscars or movies, think they’re the WRONG kind of people. But thinking only the right kind of people deserve to have movies made for them is what got us into this mess in the first place.
So, I’m doing what I would have done 23 years ago: scouting for movies I think should be, as they say, “in the conversation.” And it’s going on the contender tracker.
Go, Sound of Freedom, go. I hope it makes $100 million. The more money it makes, the more it will shame those whose attempts to bring it down failed.
[A note on the comments — keep the conversation productive and you won’t be deleted]