Why has ‘Sound of Freedom’ been so successful?
The low-budget action film Sound of Freedom has taken the box office by storm to become America’s tenth highest grossing film of 2023, according to Box Office Mojo.
On global rankings it is not far behind, sitting in 19th place -- but with plenty of room to move given it was only just released internationally.
For those unfamiliar with the movie’s premise, Sound of Freedom depicts the true story of Tim Ballard, an agent from the Department of Homeland Security. Ballard becomes disillusioned with his work arresting paedophiles, decides to leave the agency, and sets out for Mexico and Columbia where he rescues children trapped in the sex trafficking trade.
Angel Studios will be chuffed to have spent just US$14.5 million on the film and to be rewarded with returns north of $180 million. Believe it or not, domestically Sound of Freedom has outperformed Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny ($174 million), Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One ($165 million) and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts ($157 million).
The New York Times recently called it “one of history’s most successful independent films”.
The Times’ compliment didn’t come easy. For weeks after Sound of Freedom was released, the film faced a barrage of hate from the corporate press.
Rolling Stone labelled Sound of Freedom “a superhero movie for dads with brainworms” and a “QAnon-tinged thriller… designed to appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer”.
According to The Washington Post, Sound of Freedom was guilty of “warping the truth about child exploitation and catering to QAnon conspiracy theorists”.
The Guardian maligned the movie as “the QAnon-adjacent thriller seducing America,” crediting its success to an “unsavory network of astroturfed boosterism among the far-right fringe, a constellation of paranoids…”
Even worse, when Sound of Freedom beat out Indiana Jones in the July 4th box office stakes, making back almost its entire budget in a day, The Guardian felt the need to publish this yawn-inducing paragraph:
That’s not, strictly speaking, accurate – Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny had already been out for five days, the first three of which out-earned Sound of Freedom’s opening-day take, when the new independent thriller came to theaters on Tuesday. But for a fleeting moment this past Fourth of July, while the intended audience of Indy’s latest outing was presumably spending time with their families and friends at barbecues or in other social situations, an unoccupied fandom rallied by the star Jim Caviezel claimed the day with a $14.2m gross versus Dial of Destiny’s $11.7m. No matter that these figures require selective, almost willfully misleading framing to allow for the David-and-Goliath narrative trumpeted by supporters…
Okay, we get the point. But now that The Guardian’s tortured logic has been relegated to the scrap heap and Sound of Freedom is the clear victor over Indiana Jones, can we expect a mea culpa from the whiny rag? Not likely.
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So why has Sound of Freedom done so well?
If you believe the esteemed legacy press, it is clearly because the United States is overrun with tens of millions of QAnons — a singularly unconvincing theory. A conspiracy theory, even?
Certainly the casting of Jim Caviezel in the star role, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, gave the film a certain credibility and appeal among Christian audiences.
Additionally, a successful first week at the box office — especially on a date like July 4th — should not be underestimated.
Conservative media gave the film a major leg-up, both for Sound of Freedom’s early blockbuster status, and in reaction to so much hyperventilating from the woke media. No doubt many podcasters and pundits promoted the film purely out of spite for the crybaby critics.
Another reason that must not be overlooked is that Sound of Freedom confronted an issue that many people are deeply passionate about.
Human trafficking is one of the largest and fastest-growing criminal enterprises in history. I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with people about this subject in recent months, film or no film.
From where I stand, sex trafficking is a truly hot-button issue, like the Cold War was in the 1980s or Islamism was last decade. QAnon aside, the threat of sex trafficking is real, with pro-paedophilia policies proliferating in the West, no shortage of financial incentives for pornographers and pimps, and open borders everywhere you look.
Finally, there is the Streisand Effect.
What is that?
The Streisand effect is a phenomenon in which attempts to hide, remove, or censor certain content (especially on the internet) ends up causing it to become even more widely known and disseminated than it would have been otherwise.
The term originated around 2003, when singer and actress Barbra Streisand sued to have a photo removed from the internet showing her California coastline mansion. The photo was downloaded only six times prior to her lawsuit, but public awareness of her case saw more than 420,000 people view the photo within a month.
In short, Angel Studios owes The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post and dozens of other sleazy outlets a hearty thank you.
Perhaps the corporate press isn’t so useless after all?
Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adult pastor.
Image: Angel Studios
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