Sound of Freedom is a new crime thriller drama film centered around the most widespread organized criminal activity in the world today—child trafficking. Based on the works of a real man named Timothy Ballard, the film follows incidents across the two American continents as he tries to save as many children from sex trafficking as possible. While the plot and narrative of the film are the strongest points, the cinematography, and overall visuals are also helped by real locations. Overall, Sound of Freedom is an interesting film to watch and root for, though it does not really do anything beyond the visual level.
Plot Summary: What is the film about?
Beginning in Honduras, Sound of Freedom introduces a young girl who is quite interested in singing and dancing and, therefore, wants to participate in a child modeling program. This program has been offered to the girl by a woman named Giselle, who runs a program for children called Discover Your Dreams. She convinces the child’s father that both the girl and her younger brother should audition for the program in the nearby city of Tegucigalpa, and the man agrees. He takes both his children to the location of the audition the next day and leaves them there, along with many other children who had also been approached by Giselle. However, when the father returns in the evening to collect the kids, he is shocked to find out that the apartment is now empty, with no sign of his children or anyone else.
Back in California, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent, Tim Ballard, and his team prepare to raid the house of a suspected pedophile named Oshinsky. The HSI had gathered intel about Oshinsky broadcasting child pornography on his computer, and based on this information, the man was arrested. But no hard evidence against him can be found, and Oshinsky keeps claiming innocence while in custody. Tim now takes things into his own hands by pretending to have a keen, perverted interest in children himself, and he grows close to Oshinsky over the next few days. When the right time comes, though, the pedophile offers a child to the HSI agent, which is used as evidence to pin the man.
Oshinsky now gives serious information about a trafficked child being brought to the US from Mexico, and the HSI team prepares to rescue the boy. Soon, a car with only a man and a young boy of seven or eight is stopped, and Tim realizes that this car has been their target. The man, who had bought the boy, is immediately arrested, while the special agent becomes friends with the child. Miguel, the boy, gradually opens up to Tim and even looks up to him as Saint Timothy himself. The child then reveals that both he and his elder sister had been kidnapped and trafficked, and it is clear that the children in the opening scene were Miguel and his sister, Rocio. The boy pleads with Tim to rescue his sister as well, and the HSI special agent is determined to do so.
Why does Tim leave the HSI?
Sound of Freedom covers Tim Ballard’s personal life to some extent as well, as his ever-supportive wife Katherine is introduced. Being the parents of seven children themselves, Tim is determined to find Rocio and help as many kids with his work as he can. The man is genuinely driven by the purpose of his job, and as a practicing Catholic, his central belief is that the children of God should not be sold and trafficked so cruelly. Soon, Tim convinces his boss at the HSI to let him travel to South America, specifically to Colombia, as Miguel and Rocio had been taken to Cartagena after they were kidnapped. Meeting up with the local police agent, Jorge, Tim travels to the city of Cartagena to gather more information about child traffickers.
Another important character, referred to as Vampiro, is also introduced in Cartagena, for the man was regularly active against child traffickers. Vampiro once used to be an accountant for the drug cartel but has now turned to the good side of the law. When Tim and Vampiro later discuss his reason for working against traffickers, Vampiro reveals that he, too, had gotten intimate with a young underage girl once, knowing that she was an adult. After the act and the realization, the man was filled with guilt and anger toward himself, and he wanted to commit suicide. The girl had, after all, been trafficked and turned into a sex worker at the horribly young age of six, and Vampiro almost shot himself to death after the experience. However, he then changed his mind and decided that God had sent him to buy and liberate as many such children as possible.
Together with Vampiro and Jorge, Tim plans ways to take down one such trafficking gang, led by the woman named Giselle. This woman was actually once a beauty contest winner, too, and she used her influence to convince parents to either sell off their kids or hand them over for some fake audition, following which the children were kidnapped. Around this very time, news broke out about an American businessman who had been arrested in Bangkok for running a child prostitution ring in the city. This gives Tim the idea that they, too, should pose as pedophilic businessmen who want to start a private club on a secluded island for rich clients who would pay to get intimate with children. He and his team would then approach Giselle to supply the children in exchange for large amounts of money and set a trap to arrest them.
Vampiro and Jorge agree to the plan, along with a businessman named Pablo, but Tim’s idea falls flat in front of his bosses at HSI. The US department is simply too skeptical about indulging in such an expensive and risky setup, especially since there was no evidence regarding any American citizen being the perpetrator or the victim in the entire case. Therefore, the HSI asked Tim to stop his search for Rocio and return to the US as soon as possible. However, the protagonist is very much against this idea, and so after consulting with his wife, who is still very supportive, Tim decides to leave his job at the HSI. After resigning from the organization, the man is now free to conduct his own operations in Colombia, and soon, he prepares for the whole setup.
The team meets with Giselle and convinces her of their genuine interest in business. On the day when Giselle and her men bring fifty-four children to be sold off at the private island resort, the Colombian police force raids the place, as set up by Tim and Jorge. The perpetrators are all arrested, and all fifty-four children are rescued from a life of torture, abuse, and extortion. As much as Tim is happy with the work, he is still unsettled because Rocio is not among the children brought to the place. Remembering his promise to young Miguel, Tim decides to keep pursuing the matter and find the girl at any cost.
Did Tim find and save Rocio?
From their interrogation of one of the traffickers in Giselle’s group, Tim finds out about a man who was a regular customer of the group. This man, known as the Scorpion, happens to be a guerilla leader of the Colombian rebel forces, and his camp inside the Amazon forest is a strictly prohibited region for any outsiders, including the police. Jorge, therefore, advises Tim not to go after Scorpion since he or his force will not be able to provide any assistance, but the protagonist is still strongly determined to find the young girl. He learns that doctors and medical practitioners are still allowed inside these rebel camps, and soon, this information is put to use. Tim and Vampiro pose as doctors treating a cholera outbreak near the region, and they then finally approach the rebel camps.
After being threatened and then searched thoroughly, only Tim is taken to the camp, as the rebel guards feel that one doctor is enough for the medical examinations. Vampiro returns to the safe zone and unites with Jorge as they wait for any sign of Tim on the tracker that he had been fitted with. Upon reaching the rebel camp, Tim gets introduced to Scorpion and tells him that if anybody is found with cholera, then they will have to be taken away from the jungles to avoid an outbreak. This is clearly his plan to save Rocio or any other children, but Scorpion immediately asks for any such patient to be brought to him. The man would surely kill any such patient, but he wouldn’t let them leave the camp.
While going around the camp, Tim finally sees a girl resembling Rocio, and calling out her name confirms her identity. Rocio had been bought by Scorpion from Giselle, and the girl was being used as a worker in the cocaine production units. At other times, Rocio was being used for the physical satisfaction of the rebel leader as well. As Tim asks the girl about where she stays at night so that he can rescue her, Scorpion and his men approach the place and put an end to the conversation. However, this does not cause any problem for Tim at all, as he sneaks around the camp at night and eventually finds Rocio inside what seems to be the hut of Scorpion.
As he approaches her and wakes her up, Rocio is obviously spooked and cries out loudly, which the rebel leader hears from the outside and comes to check on. Within this time, though, Tim convinces the child to work according to his plan, and he then hides under the girl’s bed. Scorpion comes in and takes the girl to the next room in order to start his horrible acts on her, but Tim now stops the man from behind. Following a scuffle, Tim finally brings Scorpion down, perhaps even killing the man, and then carries Rocio out of the place. Although the rebel guards find out about this after some time, he is ultimately able to escape the camp with Rocio on a boat, reunite with his group in the safe zone, and then drive away.
Sound of Freedom‘s ending reveals that Tim is finally able to rescue Rocio, and therefore, without wasting any moment, he takes the girl back to her father and brother. The film ends with this happy reunion of the family.
Is the film based on real events?
Sound of Freedom is very much based on real events and a real man who is still dedicated to taking down child traffickers. As the film presents at its end, Tim Ballard is a real American man who worked for the HSI and initially tackled human trafficking cases under the organization. After leaving HSI, Ballard founded his own organization called Operation Underground Railroad, or OUR, which actively works against sex trafficking, especially of children. Back in Colombia, Tim Ballard had indeed posed as an American businessman wanting to set up a private sex club and had lured in traffickers in this manner. Real footage from the police raid and the subsequent arrests is also shown in Sound of Freedom.
After the operation in the rebel camp, Ballard stayed back in Colombia and investigated many other suspects and leads that were uncovered during the raid on Giselle’s group. He is credited with having rescued nearly 120 victims and arrested as many as 12 sex traffickers. The man’s efforts have also led to the US Congress taking steps to ensure better international cooperation in cases involving child trafficking. Although Tim Ballard has left OUR after being called out for sexual misconduct, Sound of Freedom obviously does not mention this and overall paints the man as a totally heroic character without any possible flaws.