“Sound of Freedom,” a thriller starring Jim Caviezel as a federal agent who cracks down on child traffickers, won’t be the biggest hit at the summer box office. But it is perhaps the most unlikely.
The film – whose distributor, Angel Studios, has had a huge success with “The Chosen,” a streaming series about the life of Jesus – was the third most watched film in North America last weekend. The weekend’s $19.7 million gross was behind only the horror film “Insidious: The Red Door,” which grossed $33 million in its first weekend, and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” which grossed $33 million in its second weekend. grossed $27.4 million.
“Sound of Freedom” is based on a true story: Caviezel plays Tim Ballard, a US Department of Homeland Security agent who investigated pedophiles. (Ballard later founded the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad, became a frequent guest on Fox News, and was appointed to a federal advisory panel on human trafficking by former President Donald J. Trump.)
Some critics say the film appeals to the QAnon movement, which posits a false conspiracy theory accusing progressive elites of pedophilia. The Guardian called it a “QAnon-adjacent thriller.” A Rolling Stone article stated that its “plain accessibility makes it valuable as a recruiting tool.” In an interview, Angel CEO Neal Harmon said, “Anyone who watches this movie knows that this movie isn’t about conspiracy theories,” adding, “it’s not about politics.”
Caviezel, who played the title role in Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie “The Passion of the Christ,” appeared to allude to QAnon while promoting the movie on Stephen K. Bannon’s podcast, saying “a big storm is coming” , a movement motto, and the mention of “adrenochrome,” a hormone QAnon proponents say elites reap from their child victims.
A Caviezel representative did not respond to a request for comment. Neither does Operation Underground Railroad.
While not explicitly faith-based like other Angel projects, including “The Chosen” and “His Only Son,” a recent film about biblical patriarchs, “Sound of Freedom” is the latest example of an entertainment industry success story that focused to an audience often overlooked by Hollywood.
The film, which was independently produced for $14.5 million, has grossed more than $41 million from its domestic release on Tuesday, July 4 through last weekend, according to Comscore. According to a Comscore media analyst, it was unusual for it to yield slightly more on Sunday than on Saturday. Angel Studios’ unorthodox “Pay It Forward” program, which allows supporters to buy tickets online for those who might not otherwise see the film, may have helped. So is its emerging status as political football: defended by the right, reviled by leftist critics.
Based in Provo, Utah, Angel relies on crowdfunding to boost his projects. More than 7,000 “angel investors” raised $5 million in exchange for revenue sharing to bring “Sound of Freedom” to market, the company said.
“We believe that the Hollywood gatekeeper system model of selecting content doesn’t choose the content people want to see,” said Jared Geesey, Angel’s senior vice president of global distribution.
“Sound of Freedom” producer, Eduardo Verástegui, and director and co-writer, Alejandro Gómez Monteverde, are from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, Verástegui said in an interview, and most of the funding came from Mexican backers. It was filmed in 2018. Its original distributor, Fox Latin America, dropped it after Disney acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019. (A Disney spokesperson said the studio never knew about the movie.) It was picked up earlier this year by Angel, who describes itself as a values-based studio.
Verástegui, the producer, acknowledged the polarization surrounding the film. He also promoted it on Bannon’s podcast. But he said he hoped political disagreements could be shelved in favor of the film’s anti-trafficking message.
The film, which is just over two hours long, does not mention any specific QAnon principles. It touches on many typical action movie beats, depicting human trafficking and related issues such as child sexual abuse images as grim and growing, and suggesting that the international wealthy are among the consumers. The protagonists include Bill Camp and Mira Sorvino in a small role as Ballard’s wife.
During the credits, Caviezel addresses the audience and says the filmmakers hope “Sound of Freedom” will be “the ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ of slavery in the 21st century.” He adds, “We believe this movie has the power to be a huge step forward toward ending child trafficking.”