Sound of Freedom Movie Delivers One Surprise after Another

Sound of Freedom Movie Delivers One Surprise after Another

I saw Sound of Freedom on the 4th of July, grabbing the last seat for the first showing. I knew that it was based on a true story of Tim Ballard (played by Jim Caviezel) and the start of The mission of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) is “We exist to rescue children from sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.”

As a former intelligence officer who worked issues throughout the Western Hemisphere, and now as a mystery author writing about drug smuggling and human trafficking in the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series, I went into the theater with certain expectations.

And was surprised.

Surprise #1

This is a stylish movie

Sound of Freedom is a stylish, visually arresting movie.

We’re treated to sweeping aerial shots of remote Colombian terrain and lights winking against the nighttime view of hilly Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The tight, crowded streets of Central America. A white SUV navigating a twisting mountain road until it disappears into the jungle.

Or the fight scene cutting between blackout and the young trafficking victim’s face as she watches.

Or when a small boy’s captor offers food, but only if the boy obeys. Or the confession of criminal-turned-helper Vampiro (Bill Camp) who used a prostitute, then found out she was 14 years old and a “working girl” since age 6.

Or the way we see a child routed from Honduras to Columbia to the United States, there to be sold to the next pedophile.


Sound of Freedom movie still Angel Studios

Cristal Aparicio as Rocio and Lucás Ávila as Miguel in Sound of Freedom.

Surprise #2

The audience reaction

Not only was the theater packed, but the anticipation was palpable. No cell phone conversations as we waited for the movie to start, no loud chattering.

Right from the start, I heard gasps, especially when genuine surveillance video spooled across the screen in the grainy black and white that reminded me of my days as an intelligence officer running a surveillance platform. Each short clip showed a child being snatched, many forcibly, others surreptitiously.

I can’t tell you how much grainy surveillance footage I’ve seen like that.

Big applause filled the theater at the end, and again after the special message from actor Jim Caviezel.

Perhaps the strong audience enthusiasm reflects the $10 million in presales before the 4th of July opening.

Surprise #3

My guy didn’t have enough screen time

My expectation was that Mexican heartthrob Eduardo Verástegui would play the Colombian cop who helps Tim Ballard (Caviezel) take down the traffickers. Instead, Verástegui plays Pablo Delgado, a wealthy property owner whom Ballard knows from his Homeland Security days and convinces to bankroll Ballard’s first big sting operation.

BTW, Verástegui is also the producer of the film.

Why am I so fixated on Eduardo Verástegui? Because if anyone ever makes a film of The Hidden Light of Mexico City, he is my choice to play Eduardo Cortez Castillo, the corruption-hunting ex-cop who discovers a plot to buy the Mexican presidency with cartel money made via child trafficking.

sound of freedom movie

Also, he liked my reel on Instagram.

Eduardo Verastegui and Jim Caviezel from Sound of Freedom courtesy Angel Studios

Eduardo Verastegui (left) and Jim Caviezel in Sound of Freedom

Surprise #4

Bilingual role model

Sound of Freedom is a lesson in how to make a bilingual movie with international appeal. The film uses both Spanish and English, with subtitles, but so deftly that it enhances rather than detracts from the action. After a fantastic first week in US theaters, no doubt it will do as well globally.

It’s a mark of excellence when Variety’s Owen Glieberman reviews it as a thriller and never refers to the bilingual element, saying “When the deliverance we’ve been seeking arrives, it feels earned . . . We’ve seen something about our world that makes the desire to “take action” seem more than an action-movie gesture.”

Director and co-writer Alejandro Monteverde deserves credit. Yes, I’m hoping his next project is the movie version of The Hidden Light of Mexico City and that it follows the same bilingual trajectory.

If you know him, please send him my way.

The big question

Will this lesson in good bilingual filmmaking be lost in the churn about the faith behind the movie?

Sound of Freedom is a major hit for Angel Studios, best known for the biblical series The Chosen. Caviezel has spoken openly about his Christian faith and of course played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Verástegui is fervently Catholic, routinely praying the Rosary in Spanish live on Facebook and Instagram, and a rising political star who has been urged to run for president of Mexico. Monteverde admitted to the Christian Post that Sound of Freedom was a project he felt “called to do” by God.

And then there’s that line of dialogue about “God’s children” that has some media pundit heads spinning. Hollywood generally shrinks from Christian themes.

Speaking of Hollywood, Sound of Freedom was originally a 21st Century Fox project. Disney shelved the movie when it acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019. Wearing his producer hat, Verástegui had to unravel legal issues and find another distributor. Ironically, Sound of Freedom trounced Disney’s new Indiana Jones film on opening day.

Surprised, not surprised

Who can object to a movie about rescuing children from human traffickers and pedophiles?

Turns out, lots of people.

It’s not hard to find statistics about child trafficking. Start with the UN, like this report:

Or this

Or this

Or stories of trafficking survivors like this from The Exodus Road:

Obviously, movie reviewers like those at Rolling Stone and The Guardian haven’t read those reports.

Instead of acknowledging that Sound of Freedom is based on a true story, they’re trying to smear it as supporting conspiracy theories or attempting to create a “cause célèbre.”


Final thoughts

I’ll leave you with the key takeaway from Sound of Freedom.

As Ballard attempts to convince Delgado to bankroll his sting concept (a remote members-only resort for pedophiles in Colombia, inspired by a place in Thailand), he says (and I paraphrase)

“You can only sell a bag of cocaine once. But a child you can sell 5 or 6 times a day. For 10 years.”


How Deep Are Your Reading Roots?

How Deep Are Your Reading Roots?

I blame my oldest sister, really. She was studious and serious and had a lot of books. She organized them tidily on bookcases in the basement where they joined books my uncle had left when he joined the Navy and headed for Vietnam. The shelves also had room for an ever-growing collection of hardbacked Readers Digest Condensed Editions and assorted odds and ends from friends and church jumble sales.

Those basement books became my reading roots; books that formed my reading tastes, taught me the power of words, and inspired me to take on a literary career. There’s usually fewer than seven degrees of separation between those roots and whatever I’m reading now.

reading rootsHEAVEN HELP US! by Herbert Tarr

A dog-eared paperback came to live in the basement donated by a friend. It was an unlikely book for a young Catholic girl to pick up, with a cover showing a man in a yarmulke. But the 1968 story of young Rabbi Gideon Levi and his Long Island temple congregation was and still is one of the most cleverly written books ever.  Tarr, a rabbi and former Air Force chaplain who wrote several other books, made the Jewish religious experience universal. He had an engaging, lighthearted style that I’ve never quite seen replicated. Sophie Kinsella comes closest albeit from a female perspective.


reading roots

EXODUS by Leon Uris

Rabbi Levi’s congregation exclaimed so much over it I wondered if it was a real book and lo and behold it was. EXODUS was published in 1958 to major acclaim and turned into a movie starring Paul Newman and Sal Mineo (neither of whom looked anything like the character they played). It is the sweeping, engrossing story of Israel’s birth, moving from the early Zionist movement to Polish Jews escaping the Nazis, Ethiopian Jews emigrating after the war and the start of hostilities with neighboring Arab states. Although a novel, it was my first primer on Middle Eastern politics and shaped my political views for years.

All of Uris’s epic historical novels (MILA 18, QB VII, TRINITY) have the same breadth, strength, and excellent writing but EXODUS stands apart. It made me wonder if I could ever write anything so big. Still wondering.

reading rootsTHE LITTLE WORLD OF DON CAMILLO by Giovanni Guareschi

Don Camillo is a strapping fictional parish priest in Italy’s Po Valley, ministering to a small village congregation. His arch frenemy is Peppone, the Communist mayor of the town, who–as is to be expected of a Communist–says he does not believe in God. It is sometime after WWII and the two men fought together as partisans in the hills against the Nazis. The book is a series of softly humorous and philosophical stories in which Don Camillo and Peppone argue over conflicting beliefs (Peppone wants to baptize his son Lenin–oh the irony!), the welfare of the little village (both try to rig a soccer tournament between the church team and the People’s palace team), and the true meaning of friendship. Oh, and Christ on the cross in Don Camillo’s church talks to him/is his conscience.

I routinely re-read this book when feeling unsettled and always find both humor and solace.  Guareschi, a journalist from Milan who also illustrated the book, wrote other Don Camillo stories and several unrelated novels and stories which can often be found on amazon or abebooks. I was recently thrilled to find an excellent blog on the Don Camillo series. Enjoy!

reading rootsTHE CODE OF THE WOOSTERS by P.G.Wodehouse

My sister had a copy of THE MOUSE THAT ROARED by Leonard Wibberly. It was clever and inventive and I hoped there were others about the silly Duchy of Grand Fenwick. So I’m a high school freshman at the public library searching the Ws in Fiction and where WIB should be there was WOD. Wodehouse to be precise, which was almost as silly a name as Wibberly, and I was hooked.

Wodehouse’s books are all suspended in 1920’s England, where people pass time at big country houses getting wires crossed and trying to extricate themselves from nonsense. His language is a swift patter of hysterical dialogue, British slang, and light comedy. THE CODE OF THE WOOSTERS is my favorite, with a cast of characters who appear in many Wodehouse books. It is one of the Jeeves books narrated by Bertie Wooster, whose valet (“my man, don’t you know”) Jeeves is constantly extricating Bertie and friends from impossible romances and other ill-judged escapades. I have multiple copies of this book, including the one in the 20-lb set of all the Jeeves and Bertie books I bought at the oracle of British bookstores, Hatcherd’s in Piccadilly, and hauled home back in the days before there was a 50-lb weight limit on suitcases.


reading rootsTHE KITCHEN MADONNA by Rumer Godden

This book is firmly rooted. It was in at least two of the Reader’s Digest Condensed Editions. Wikipedia lists it as a children’s story but it is a universal story of a dysfunctional family in London that changes for the better when the young son decides to make a homemade icon for their Ukrainian housekeeper, Marta. His effort takes him across London on a quest to do something for someone else for the first time in his life. Rumer Godden, who was raised in British India and wrote numerous books for adults and children, nine of which became movies, created one of her most uplifting stories. The book is sweet and thought-provoking and makes a unique gift.


reading rootsGONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell

I can still see this book in my mind’s eye: the hardback cover is deep blue and the bottoms of the pages are wrinkled from having been inadvertently dunked in the water while I was reading and taking a bath at the same time. It topped my 5th grade reading list, back in the days when I knew what a “beau” was but had never heard the word pronounced.

The book got progressively more dog-eared through middle school as I read and re-read it. It wasn’t the Civil War theme or the love triangle between Ashley, Scarlett and Melanie. No, it was the way that Mitchell put me right into Scarlet’s head.

Do you remember the scene when Rhett deserts Scarlett as they flee Atlanta before Sherman’s army? There was a line something like this: “Her mind jumped around, trying to remember what Gerald had called balky mules and Mr. Lincoln.” But nothing came and Scarlett ends up just calling Rhett a cad. My quote may be imperfect, but it was the first novel I read that showed how to bring the reader deep inside a character’s point of view.

Gone With the Wind on

The novel was better than the movie, too.

Fiddle dee dee, Carmen, how you do run on.

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reading roots


Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


reading roots

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