- Alejandro Monteverde
- Run Time
- 2 hours and 11 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more
Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Alejandro Monteverde’s procedural crime thriller is another one of those “based on a true story” viewers must take with several grains of salt. Although I want you to se this film because of its important subject—child sex trafficking—I begin with this cautionary note because of the controversy it and its star Jim Caviezel have aroused. More on this later.
The film begins in Honduras where former beauty queen Katy-Gisselle (Yessica Borroto Perryman) visits the home of young Rocio and her brother, Miguel. She has heard the little girl sing on the street and talks the impoverished father Rberto into believing that his two adorable little ones could become child models. All he need do is to bring them to her photo shoot where they will be photographed and interviewed for their portfolios. He does so, but is not allowed inside, on the excuse that “stage parents” get in the way. Come back that evening to pick up the children. When he does as instructed, there is no answer to his knock. He discovers that the rooms are bare—no cameras or children.
The children are herded into a cargo container along with others. They receive no food or water, and eventually are unloaded. To Rocio’s horror, the sister and brother are to be sold separately. Before they are sent to different countries, she gives her Saint Timothy’s medal to Miguel.
Caviezel plays real life Homeland Security Agent Tim Ballard in Calexico, California who becomes upset that when he busts a child pornographer, his partner points out they have not freed one child slave. He then convinces predator Ernst Oshinsky, whom he has just arrested, that he himself is a pedophile. Gaining Oshinsky’s trust, he is able to connect with child trafficker Earl Buchanan, the man who had bought Miguel. After arresting the predator, Tim, a father of several children himself, talks tenderly with the boy, hoping to gain information leading to other child sex slaves. The boy is impressed by the agent’s name. so before being restored to his father Roberto, he gives Tim the St. Timothy necklace given him by his sister and asks him to find Rocio.
Now fully committed to a cause, Tim Ballard’s search leads him to Cartagena, Columbia, where he meets with Vampiro (Bill Camp), a reformed member of a drug cartel who is now dedicated to freeing child sex slaves. Inspired by an article about a sex club in Thailand that was shut down, Tim and Vampiro go about setting up a sex club in Cartagena to lure child traffickers, including Gisselle and her child slaves. Tim’s superior Frost (Kurt Fuller) back in the States, balks at the large amount of money required for such a deal. He demands that Tim return home, so the agent resigns his job. Vampiro through the good offices of a policeman connects with wealthy businessman Jorge (Javier Godino) who is sympathetic to their operation. Their complicated plan involves setting up the sex resort on an island and convincing the predators to supply as many children as they can. They succeed in attracting Gisselle and other traffickers with their chidren to the island where they are arrested, but among the 56 children there is no Rocie. She has been sold to a rebel chieftain in a remote part of Columbia where no government agent or soldier dares to go. However, the children are so elated by their rescue that they sing and dance during the feast set before them. That is when Vampiro makes the comment to Tim that gives the film its name, something to the effect, “You are hearing” the sound of freedom.”
Tim and Vampiro decide to go anyway to the guerilla-controlled area, this sequence turning into a journey into “the heart of darkness.” According to those in the know, this part of the film is totally fictional. Tim Ballard, several critics have claimed, often exaggerates his doings, and the anti-sex trafficking nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) that he has set up, has been criticized often for its extra-legal sting operations.
If one can put aside the “based on a true story’ claim and go along with the story, the horrors of child sex trafficking is depicted in a helpful way. The film is on the side of the prophets and of Jesus, all of them declaring that God is indeed concerned for the helpless little ones victimized by the cruel predators profiting from their misery. Actor Jim Caviezel makes a plea at the end of the credits which should be taken with a pound of salt. I am glad that I saw the film, but wished I had read the Rolling Stone article “Trump to Screen the Controversial Sex-Trafficking Film at Bedminster Club” first. I urge you to do so, and if this makes you decide not to spend money and time on the film, I can understand. Maybe, instead of spending money on this film, you could send it to one of the “7 Nonprofits Leading the Fight Against Human Trafficking” described in the article of the same need. If you do, then maybe this controversial film described as extremely flawed will have done some good.
This review will be in the August issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.