Jim Caviezel: ‘Sound of Freedom’ Tells True ‘Battle Hero’s Story,’ Showing How Real-Life Warriors Save Children From Trafficking

The actor, a devout Catholic, hopes that people will leave the movie theater with ‘a new heart.’

‘Sound of Freedom’ stars Jim Caviezel; the true story highlights the scourge of child trafficking.
‘Sound of Freedom’ stars Jim Caviezel; the true story highlights the scourge of child trafficking. (photo: Photo courtesy of Angel Studios)

Catholic audiences know actor Jim Caviezel for his iconic performances in movies such as The Passion of the Christ and The Count of Monte Cristo. His latest film, Sound of Freedom, which will be released by Angel Studios in theaters nationwide on July 4, is, in his view, among his best work.

In this film based on a true story, Caviezel, who is Catholic, plays Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard, who, after rescuing a young boy from traffickers, learns that the boy’s sister is still captive. He quits his job and puts his life at risk as he embarks on a dangerous journey through the Colombian jungle to save the little girl.

In 2013, Ballard and a number of former government operatives left their jobs to found Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), which works around the world and in conjunction with law enforcement to rescue children from slavery and exploitation.

Caviezel spoke with CNA about the upcoming film, the impact it had on him, and the effect he hopes it will have on others.

“This is the best film I’ve done since The Passion of the Christ,” he said. “This film is phenomenal, and it is worth being seen.”

Caviezel was drawn to playing Ballard in the film. “As an actor, it’s kind of like a baseball player, where you have a particular pitch you like, and when you connect to it, you can hit it out of the park; and with this one, I felt I could do that.”

Caviezel spoke about the work that went into preparing for the role. He and the real Tim Ballard spent time training, specifically in close-quarter combat, and Caviezel even joined Ballard on missions.

“I go and literally sit in on these missions, and I’m watching him and his analysis of what he sees. And it has to be done very methodically. And I’m trying to find out who he is and what I am and how we’re similar,” he recalled.

While filming, a group of Navy Seals and other armed forces were assigned as protection. Caviezel, unaware at the time, shared the story of the day of filming where there was no protection. He later found out that the group of special forces went out and saved 100 children from traffickers that day.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Caviezel said.

The actor, a devout Catholic, hopes that people will leave the movie theater with “a new heart.”

“A heart that’s not afraid,” he added. “I was praying the other day and I said, ‘Can we love God’s children more than we fear evil? Can we love Jesus more than we fear the cross?’ And this is the problem right now with modern-day Christians, is that we want the easy route. And right now you see the world changing. You’re going to have to make a decision at some point.”

“There’s good; there’s evil. But a big part of that evil is those that are sitting on the fence. And we have to make a choice. And some are more leaning towards Jesus, more towards good; some are more leaning towards the evil, but they’re on that fence, and that fence belongs to the evil one,” he continued. “And so we have to make that decision. ... And I love that about Tim Ballard. He’s a battle hero’s story.”

About 2 million children are trafficked every year worldwide. The United States is considered one of the top destinations for victims of child trafficking, and cases have been reported in all 50 states. According to a 2019 report from the Human Trafficking Hotline, California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and New York rank at the top, with the most cases. There are more than 350,000 children who go missing in the U.S. each year. Of those 350,000, it is estimated that roughly 100,000 are being trafficked.

Photo from a scene in "Sound of Freedom" being released in theaters on July 4, 2023. Photo courtesy of Angel Studios

A scene from the film, courtesy of Angel Studios

“God’s children are no longer for sale” is a powerful line in the film, and Caveziel told CNA why he believes children are under attack, not just through child trafficking, as seen in the movie, but also through abortion. (According to the Guttmacher Institute, almost 1 million abortions took place in the United States in 2020.)

“The most vulnerable are under attack for one reason — children are the most innocent of humans,” Caviezel said.

“It wounds God to the deepest core to kill those unborn babies, but now they kill them when they’re born, don’t they?”

He continued: “That’s where Jesus is going to have a deep conversation with all of us when we die, and I don’t want to be a part of that. I want to tell him that I love him. That’s what I want to say; and that I tried to live the life that it was supposed to be, that I give my life for him because he deserves to be loved.”

“Pope John Paul said, ‘Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom exists not to do what you like but having the right to do what you ought.’ That's the freedom I wish for you, for us: freedom from sin, freedom from our weaknesses, freedom from the slavery that sin makes out of all of us. That is the freedom that is worth dying for.”

“I’m here because this warrior saint, Tim Ballard, gave his life and continues to do it, to go down to the cartel, risking his head like John the Baptist did; risking his head like St. Paul did,” he said.

Angel Studios, an American media company and film distribution studio that uses equity crowdfunding to finance its productions and is known for the popular series The Chosen, is encouraging Sound of Freedom supporters and viewers to pay it forward so those who might not be able to see the movie can claim a free ticket.

The studio’s goal is to have 2 million people attend the film’s opening weekend, to represent the estimated 2 million children trafficked each year.

On June 13, Elon Musk posted a tweet recommending that Sound of Freedom producers put the film on Twitter for free for a brief period “or just ask people to subscribe to support (we would not keep any funds).”

Producer Eduardo Verástegui responded: “Thank you, Elon; this is great idea! God’s children are not for sale. Can’t wait for you to see the film. ¡Dios te bendiga, hermano! (God bless you, brother!)”

A clip of Caviezel’s interview with CNA can be viewed below.

Jim Caviezel (l) and Javier Godino star in ‘Sound of Freedom.’

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