Sound of Freedom. M, 131 minutes. Three stars. This is one of those films where the offscreen history is as interesting as what happens on screen. Quite apart from the story of its subject, Tim Ballard the film has had a long, difficult journey to be seen. It's been worth the wait. Among the film's executive producers were motivational speaker Anthony Robbins and actor-director Mel Gibson. Sound of Freedom was completed in 2018 but COVID delayed its release. Disney picked it up but put it on the shelf. Director Alejandro Monteverde thinks this might have been in part because it wanted to focus on lighter fare, though some conspiracy theorists have had other ideas. The filmmakers bought the rights back and the film was picked up by Utah-based Angel Studios. It's been a big hit, especially for a modestly budgeted independent movie, and deservedly so. While there's a religious element behind Sound of Freedom, it's not a cheap-looking, heavy-handed tract preaching to the converted. It's a well-made, serious and engrossing, if slightly overlong, film about a horrific subject. The film opens in Honduras. A poor father takes his young children, Miguel and Rocio, to what he's been told are child modelling sessions. Other children are also present. When he returns, several hours later, there's nobody there: the girls and boys have been taken away to be sold as sex slaves. It's an understated and disquieting sequence but here, as elsewhere, the film doesn't feel exploitative. The difficult material is handled sensitively by Monteverde and co-writer Rod Barr throughout. There are no pornographic or overtly sexual images, but characters' expressions and dialogue and body language, while restrained, give us the picture clearly enough. In the US, Tim Ballard (played by Jim Caviezel) is a veteran Special Agent for Homeland Security Investigations, charged with tracking down and arresting people who possess and distribute child pornography. It's emotionally and physically draining work and he's struck when a similarly affected colleague says that although they've arrested many people, they have not saved a single child from being molested and exploited. Even though many of the children abused are in other countries, Tim, a father of six, decides to take a more active approach to help them. Using information from one of the men he arrested, he is able to catch the predator who "bought" Miguel, and the boy tells him about Rocio. Having saved one child, Tim is now a man on a mission: he wants to find Rocio too and reunite the family. Taking some time off work, Tim goes to Colombia and meets Vampiro (Bill Camp), an ex-con who laundered cartel money and who now rescues exploited children. After a night with a prostitute, Vampiro was shocked to find out she was a young teenager, not an adult and nearly killed himself. He credits God with saving and inspiring him. It's the most overt display of religiosity in the movie and this element of the story is slightly sensationalised. Tim gets so involved that, with the support of his wife Katherine (Mira Sorvino), he quits his job rather than return and he and Vampiro get to work. He wants to save as many children as possible but Rocio is never far from his mind. Ballard has been candid about what's true and fictionalised in the film though it does seem to be substantially accurate (he did not, however, kill anyone). The information in the end titles is very disturbing, with statistics about the vast scale of international child sex trafficking. During the credits, we also get a longwinded, repetitive appeal from Caviezel who implores people to tell others to see the movie, in order to raise awareness of the issue. I don't doubt his sincerity, but it feels like the film is exploiting the audience to make more money as well as get the worthy message out.