Sound of Freedom in a warm CB theater

I don’t easily buy into conspiracy theories, but I read recently where, in an effort to discourage people from going to watch the film Sound of Freedom, some theaters were turning off the air conditioning. I was invited to watch a screening of the film Monday in Crested Butte and let’s just say it got pretty hot in there for the second half of the movie. I just figured it was a 3-D effect given the location of the action in a steamy South American jungle. If the conspiracy theory goes that turning off the air conditioning is supposed to push people out of the theater, it didn’t work here as no one in the full house, as far as I could tell, left before the closing credits finished rolling.

Walking outside the theater at about 6:15, a long-time local said to me that he was surprised to see me at the movie. His surprise was not because it was on a busy paper workday. It wasn’t because he figured I had gotten confused looking for the 4 o’clock showing of Barbie. No, it was because I attended a screening of a film that has suddenly become a political right-left lightning rod.

“I’m surprised to see you because the left seems to be targeting the movie all across the country…”

Now while I was probably one of the few —okay, maybe the only person—watching the movie on Monday that voted for Joe Biden, I had wanted to see it after reading so much about it. And as I told my fellow moviegoer, I didn’t think it was a particularly partisan movie for the right or the left. I didn’t see the overt politics some people claim are part of the movie. It’s mainly noise outside the film. He agreed.  

There was some “God” messaging in the film, but we’ve all seen similar style messaging in other films before and it didn’t inundate the movie with every scene. Side note: I am part of the cast in a film labeled by some as “faith-based” that was shot in Crested Butte and released in 2005. To see some topflight acting (Tuck is in it) and some really good local scenery from 18 years ago, check out Cole Claassen’s Fern Hill. 

As for Sound of Freedom, I actually thought it was a pretty good, sometimes angsty action thriller in the realm of a good guy does almost super-human things to rescue people in trouble. Think Liam Neeson in Taken. The final rescue is a big stretch, but it is a movie after all.

The movie’s foundation is built around the premise of child sex trafficking that, right or left, green or orange, people should agree is an abhorrent crime that should be attacked and stopped. Sound of Freedom is not a documentary. The film is a story loosely based on the exploits of anti-trafficking advocate Tim Ballard (played by actor Jim Caviezel) and follows the Homeland Security agent as he quits his job to save two kidnapped siblings and free dozens more from a Colombian sex trafficking ring. The actual Ballard started a nonprofit, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), which has had a hand in rescuing trafficked children. 

Some critics say the movie contributes to the false perception that the problem of trafficking is best addressed by kicking down doors and carrying children out to freedom. Even OUR states this isn’t the primary reality, writing on its website that “while this type of human trafficking exists, it isn’t the majority,” and that “most trafficking happens through a manipulative grooming process,” not through the kidnapping scenarios portrayed in the film. Hey people — it’s a movie. And no matter the real life pipeline, the movie makes clear and focuses on the point that just one child being abused for sex is one too many and punches at the soul of decent people.

The child actors in the film are powerful and tug at the heartstrings. Caviezel has the looks and demeanor of a movie hero, and the dude can obviously cry at will. He sheds a lot of tears in the movie, as did many in the audience on Monday.

The movie did not go deep into how to solve the problem or tangibly work to address the growing crime. That is not its responsibility. It’s a movie after all. It told a story and can make viewers aware. After watching the film, audiences should understand that one child in such a horrible situation is one too many and hopefully some will take action to address the issue.

The film was brought to Crested Butte and sponsored by Susan and Bruce Wilkinson, who spend time not only in Crested Butte but also in Houston and on a south Texas ranch on the Mexico border. Susan said the situation on the border can too easily lead to the horribleness of children being sold or kidnapped into sexual slavery. She is haunted by the thought, and it is understandable after watching Sound of Freedom.

The topic is troubling and dark. The movie is good in terms of “entertainment” in an action sort of way. It also raises uncomfortable questions. It was good to have found a time and place to be shown here in CB and I appreciated the invitation since it was a movie I had wanted to see for myself. The Wilkinsons say they are looking at a way to show it again to a broader local audience.

I’m not a movie reviewer, but to me it was worth seeing and if you get the opportunity, go for it. Just hope the theater is less hot than the Colombian jungle. In that vein, I talked to someone who went to see Barbie at 8 o’clock on Monday and they too felt like they were in a (pink) South American jungle —so I’m not buying into the air-conditioning conspiracy theory.

—Mark Reaman

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