Jim Caviezel
© Angel StudiosJim Caviezel as Tim Ballard in 'Sound of Freedom.'

Comment: The following story from Rolling Stone, titled 'Sound Of Freedom' is a Superhero Movie for Dads With Brainworms, is an example of the coordinated smear campaign against 'Sound of Freedom,' a film exposing modern day child trafficking which overtook Disney's latest Indiana Jones film at the box office on July 4th weekend.

One thing is crystal clear: whoever is controlling the MSM clearly doesn't want you to see this movie!

"Based on a true story," I heard from somewhere across the theater.

The familiar words had appeared on screen, and an elderly man had taken it upon himself to read them aloud, to the rest of a sizable audience seated for a matinee showing of the anti-child-trafficking thriller Sound of Freedom, starring Jim Caviezel. For the seasoned moviegoer, this phrase is a joke — we know that cinema will stretch almost any "truth" to the breaking point — and the rank insincerity of such a pronouncement is the foundation of the prankish opening titles of Fargo. But this crowd, I could tell, would view the events depicted over the next two-plus hours as entirely literal.

Comment: A rather arrogant opening. Miles Klee is apparently much better than crowd he's lowered himself to mingle with. Such is the sacrifice necessary for a true "journalist"!

Caviezel, best known for being tortured to death in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, has become a prominent figure on the conspiracist right, giving speeches and interviews in which he hints at an underground holy war between patriots and a sinister legion of evildoers who are harvesting the blood of children. It's straight-up QAnon stuff, right down to his use of catchphrases like "The storm is upon us." Here, he gets to act out some of that drama by playing a fictionalized version of Tim Ballard, head of the anti-sex trafficking nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), in a feature film that casts the operator as a Batman-style savior for kids sold into the sex trade.

Ballard himself has dabbled in Q-adjacent conspiracy theories, such as the Wayfair trafficking hoax, while his organization has far-right affinities and a long record of distorting its botched "raids," which rely on bizarre tactics like asking psychics where to find victims for rescue. Ballard, Caviezel, and others of their ilk had primed the public to accept Sound of Freedom as a documentary rather than delusion by fomenting moral panic for years over this grossly exaggerated "epidemic" of child sex-trafficking, much of it funneling people into conspiracist rabbit holes and QAnon communities. In short, I was at the movies with people who were there to see their worst fears confirmed.

Sound of Freedom lives up to that anticipation. It's a stomach-turning experience, fetishizing the torture of its child victims and lingering over lush preludes to their sexual abuse. At times I had the uncomfortable sense that I might be arrested myself just for sitting through it. Nonetheless, the mostly white-haired audience around me could be relied on to gasp, moan in pity, mutter condemnations, applaud, and bellow "Amen!" at moments of righteous fury, as when Ballard declares that "God's children are not for sale." They were entranced by what they clearly took for a searing exposé. Not even the occasional nasty coughing fit — and we had no shortage of those — could break the spell.

At the outset, we're introduced to Caviezel as Ballard, working for the Department of Homeland Security as part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He takes down purveyors of child pornography, but is haunted by the knowledge that the actual victims are beyond his grasp. Meanwhile, a father in Honduras entrusts his young daughter and son to a woman who claims she can set them up with modeling careers, only to abduct them for transport to a child sex trafficking ring in Colombia. When Ballard takes the initiative of arranging his first sting to nab a pedophile who has a stolen child in tow, he conveniently ends up rescuing that little boy — and commits to finding the sister as well. Eventually, he'll abandon the DHS altogether, a rogue crusader fed up with bureaucratic limitations, to infiltrate and bring down the Colombian operation.

Apart from its relentless messaging, the movie is hobbled by a near-total absence of procedural logic. That original rescue is only possible because Ballard is standing at the exact right spot of a U.S.-Mexico border station at the very moment his target tries to cross. Lucky! Earlier, Ballard convinces an imprisoned child porn peddler facing a sentence of 30 years to help him contact traffickers in exchange for an immunity deal, needlessly posing as a pedophile himself to gain trust. When the guy fulfills his end of the bargain, Ballard has a dozen police officers swarm the diner they're in to... arrest him again? Wait, how was he sprung from custody in the first place? Doesn't matter as long as the drooling creep with requisite glasses and pervert mustache gets his head slammed against a table once more. The same muddled approach is taken to Ballard's later, more sensational busts, which is certainly in keeping with the way O.U.R. embellishes and misrepresents their international "missions," according to a Vice News investigation of the group.

Comment: Vice News, bastion of journalistic integrity.

Then you have Caviezel, bleached blond to match Ballard's buff, clean-cut Mormon profile. Performance-wise, he's stuck on a note of world-historical grief, either crying or staring with bloodshot eyes as he attempts to convey the scale and weight of the tragedy before him. The unambiguous hero of the piece, Ballard invokes parenthood as his motivation or an argument to get the cooperation he wants — "What if it was your daughter?" is practically his catchphrase — yet aside from a dialogue-free breakfast scene, he never interacts with his offspring. And if Mira Sorvino, who plays his wife Katherine, spent more than a day on set, you'd never know it: she's there for all of two minutes, offering brief words of encouragement while Ballard spends weeks undercover as a louche sex tourist in Central America. She, too, evidently had a personal stake in joining this film, telling the Washington Examiner this week that she has "met so many child survivors and my heart burns for them."

Comment: It's rather telling that Klee is cynically spinning Sorvino's empathic reasons for joining the film as a bad thing.

As implausible as the movie is — it invents a finale where Ballard journeys deep into a jungle alone to pluck a girl from the clutches of guerrilla militants, which he accomplishes by posing as a doctor distributing cholera vaccines — one wonders if it was extreme enough for Caviezel's liking. The actor has taken to repeating the most grotesque falsehoods of the sprawling QAnon ideology, among them that traffickers are harvesting children's organs and extracting the chemical compound adrenochrome from their brains before murdering them.

Compared to this nonsense, Sound of Freedom is relatively grounded in our universe. But that mainstream accessibility makes it valuable as a recruitment tool, much as generic "Save the Children" campaigns proved gateways to far-right conspiracy theories about a secret cabal of evil elites conducting blood rituals. On the QAnon message board Great Awakening this week, adherents celebrated the movie's box-office success (it quickly made back its modest budget of around $14 million and out-earned the latest Indiana Jones sequel on July 4, its premiere date, after the franchise blockbuster had been out for several days) while crowing that "demons," including movie theater employees annoyed by the demographic it pulled in, were miserable at their victory.

"Do you see how more powerful we are than the legacy news?" wrote one board user. "We are the news now!" On a different thread, someone attempted to prove that Donald Trump's endorsement of the film on Truth Social on Thursday was connected to a random Q post from 2018 (because of the time stamps on each). Some discussed efforts to get "normies" who are "in need of awakening" to see Sound of Freedom, including with the assistance of a promotional program that allows customers to buy tickets for strangers. "Crimes against children will unite us all. Eyes are opening," read one optimistic post, while another was more emphatic still: "We are witnessing true divine intervention."

It matters, too, that Sound of Freedom almost never saw the light of day. Completed in 2018, no studio would take it for fear of losing money, according to producer Eduardo Verastegui — with Netflix and Amazon among those who passed. It finally found distribution thanks to Angel Studios, a Utah-based media company that crowdfunds original films and TV series that "amplify light." (Although founded by Mormon brothers who originally created a content-filtering service to prevent children from seeing violence, nudity and profanity, it claims no formal church affiliation.)

Therefore, to its boosters, the movie checks many satisfying boxes at once. Caviezel, a devout Catholic allegedly blacklisted by the entertainment industry, back for a mythology-burnishing biopic of Ballard; a call to action in an imagined global war against sexual predators; a blow struck at the heart of "woke" Hollywood, the den of iniquity that snubbed it and (lest we forget) is thought to produce the wealthy deviants who serve as villains in this story.

Meaning it will surely do no good to point out Sound of Freedom's hackneyed white savior narrative. Or its wildly immature assumption that abused and traumatized children go right back to normal once the bad guys are in handcuffs. Or that it enforces stereotypes about trafficking that Angel Studios itself says are less than accurate. To the film's intended viewers, these cannot be flaws — they're the whole appeal.

There is visible suffering all around us in America. There are poor and unhoused, and people brutalized or killed by police. There are mass shootings, lack of healthcare, climate disasters. And yet, over and over, the far right turns to these sordid fantasies about godless monsters hurting children. Now, as in the 1980s Satanic panic, they won't even face the fact that most kids who suffer sexual abuse are harmed not by a shadowy cabal of strangers, but at the hands of a family member. To know thousands of adults will absorb Sound of Freedom, this vigilante fever dream, and come away thinking themselves better informed on a hidden civilizational crisis... well, it's profoundly depressing. Worse still, they'll want to spread the word.