Sound of Freedom review – anti-child-trafficking thriller that plays to the QAnon crowd | Movies

This peculiar film features a notably wooden lead performance from Jim Caviezel, best known for playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It has become a US box office sensation and an explosive campaign document, a phenomenon similar in its way to the once hugely popular viral video Kony 2012, which demanded the fugitive Ugandan cult leader Joseph Kony be arrested. Sound of Freedom is about child sex trafficking, based on the reminiscences of anti-trafficking activist and campaigner Tim Ballard, and stars Caviezel as Ballard, who quits his job at a toothless US government agency to rescue a young girl from a Colombian sex-trafficking cartel.

All decent people share a fundamental horror and outrage at child sexual abuse. But not everyone will share Caviezel’s QAnon-type belief that child sex trafficking is run by elites who want to harvest the hormone adrenochrome from children, as Caviezel himself said at a recent conference. It should be noted that the film itself prudently does not feature any explicit conspiracy theories. But there are some startling moments. Caviezel’s hero Ballard arrests a loathsome paedophile, the most influential paedophile in the film: a Mad-magazine figure of sweaty perviness, who has published a pro-paedophile book called Apollodorus under the pseudonym Genghis Amore. His real name is “Oshinsky”. And what sort of a surname is that, you may ask?

The most dramatic part of the film comes some way into the closing credits when Caviezel addresses the audience directly in a special video. He hints that this long-delayed film faced “every roadblock you can imagine” but doesn’t go into details. He says that the real heroes of the film are the little girl and her brother, and that “these kids can be more powerful than the cartel kingpins, presidents, congressmen or even tech billionaires”. Caviezel’s video seems to be campaigning for something – but what exactly? We all agree that child sexual abuse is disgusting, and that the intergovernmental cooperation that Ballard is demanding is a good idea. But this film seems to want something else.

There is no reason why a movie about exploitation shouldn’t be powerful; I myself liked the recent thriller Sicario 2: Soldado, which was condemned in some liberal quarters as a Trumpian fantasy. But this is just a dull and badly acted movie.

Sound of Freedom is released on 1 September in UK and Irish cinemas, and is screening now in Australia.