The statistics around human trafficking are sobering – 45.8 million men, women and children are enslaved around the world. In the film Priceless, starring Grammy award-winning singer Joel Smallbone of For King and Country, these numbers are given a face and a name.
The film tells the story of James, a widowed father who agrees to drive a truck, filled with unknown cargo, across the United States for some extra cash.
After swerving off the road, he hears cries coming from his truck and realises he is a pawn in a human-trafficking and prostitution ring. What follows is a heavy – but much-needed story, about his choice to free the girls from the slavery they’ve been manipulated into.
At times difficult to watch, Priceless masterfully uncovers the realities of human trafficking – from the idiosyncrasies of the pimp to the promise that the girls are simply “waitressing” to pay off a debt. Most potently, it reveals that the majority of this happens right under our noses, in our neighbourhoods.
Unlike many Christian films, Priceless is a competent and sophisticated movie, shot cleverly with a smart soundtrack and a good script. This is largely due to the directorial role the Smallbone family took in the film.
The role of faith is paramount in the storyline, but instead of being cliché, it is used as the lynchpin, displaying the inner strength of the girls and giving inspiration to the lead.
While Priceless opens the door to further education around human trafficking, there are flaws – the “white saviour complex” is displayed in their decision to have a white male lead “rescue” a Hispanic woman, and is further enforced with the cultural background of the pimp. The romantic conclusion is also problematic from a professional stand-point.
And while the life-and-death scenarios in the film are true to life, their decision to portray the lead as a vigilante could be dangerous without further knowledge about the complexities of human trafficking and the trauma following rescue.
An emotive and heart-wrenching watch, Priceless is a must-see. Following the World Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking in September, this is an ideal springboard to further discuss human trafficking and how we can be a part of stopping it globally.
Priceless is rated M and is available from Koorong for $25.