January 14, 2019 The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Movie Review)
Everyone has their own opinion of the government and how things are handled. There are factions of men and women who believe that there will come a time where an uprising must happen, and they are uniquely qualified to fight. Their beliefs are thought to be extreme from the norm. Often these groups can be called upon as suspects in crimes against authority. The mass murder of cops with known militia presence close by is sure to create a frenzy as to if the militia is involved. All these thoughts in mind, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is the directorial debut of Writer Henry Dunham, a film presenting the tensions between the police and militiamen.
In theaters and on VOD and Digital HD on Friday January 18th through RLJE Films, the story starts when a distress call is heard over the police scanner one night. A masked shooter has emerged from the woods to interrupt a police funeral. Mass casualties are involved. A small militia group quickly meet in their holding warehouse to assess the situation. Unlike most perpetrators of mass shootings, this one did not kill himself and is out there still alive. Ford (Chris Mulkey: 48 Hours 1982, Cloverfield 2008), the leader of the group, insists that they make sure their hands are clean and are not taking the fall for the massacre. It is determined quickly, though, that while the group had not acted as a unit one of the members had gone rogue and acted alone. Gannon (James Badge Dale: The Departed 2006, World War Z 2013), a jaded former cop and expert interrogator, is tasked to figure out which of the men is the masked gunman.
Beckmann (Patrick Fischier: Ghost World 2011, Happy! 2017) is immediately cleared and mans the radio to gather information on what is happening on the outside and to ensure the group’s safety. Gannon’s detective skills are focused on the remaining members. Could Hubbel (Gene Jones: No Country for Old Men 2007, The Hateful Eight 2015), the eldest member have finally snapped and attacked the police solo? What about Morris (Happy Anderson: The Knick 2014, Mindhunter 2017), the anger boiling former Ayaan Nation member? Noah (Brian Geraghty: The Hurt Locker 2008, The Alienist 2018), his alibi is the weakest of the bunch, but a personal connection to Gannon will not let him fully go there. Lastly, could the gunman be Keating (Robert Aramayo: Game of Thrones series, Nocturnal Animals 2016), the young anti-social who has never spoken a word to anyone. One of them has put the group in dire straits. He must be sacrificed to save them all.
Gannon does not have the luxury of time on his hands. Beckmann reports of chaos and copycat events happening throughout the country. Other militia’s have given them credit for the one thing they do not want to be a part of. It is only a matter of time before the police arrive in force. A confession must happen otherwise all of the men are screwed. Is Gannon’s interrogation skills still as sharp as they used to be? Will he be able to figure out who waged a solo war on the police department? Can he save them all except the actual gunman before a mutiny happens inside the militia itself? What kind of chaos is truly happening out there?
Whenever a police officer is killed there is an air of dread and fear that surrounds the situation. Police officers are supposed to be there to protect the public. If they can be and are killed then what chance does the public have to survive? Members of militias have vastly different reasons to be a part of the factions. Some want pure anarchy and chaos. They do not believe in the authority of the police or the government and are just waiting of the opportunity to get the power back to the people. There are those that are just waiting for the anarchy so that they can take the authoritative role that police officers should never have had. A dead cop brings both ideals into closer perspective.
Regardless, both ideals would fight to the death if ever being chased by the police. These ideas give the film its intensity. None of the men are afraid to die. None are afraid of bloodshed. They simply do not want to be given credit for something they did not do. There is almost a nobility in the idea that these militia men do want justice to be served, but at the same time that nobility is lost because they are also just trying to protect themselves so that they are not forced to prematurely bare arms. It is the ultimate struggle between authority and anarchy. Neither will back down. Neither will ever fully win.
The subject matter in The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is extremely dark and serious. Mass shootings with any particular group as a target hits deep within people’s core. Everyone wants to believe in safety when they walk outside their house and into the public. Every mass shooting takes a little of this safety away. Someone could strike at any moment. In the Standoff at Sparrow Creek, the shooting is just the catalyst for the actual story. The shooting is never seen on film. The viewer lives it like the characters though static filled panicked voices on police scanners and radios. The focus is on the men who are armed to the hilt societal outsiders. Why are they a part of such a radical group? Through Gannon’s interrogations the viewer is allowed to see a few different mindsets that plausibly leads to such extreme thinking. Dunham brilliantly creates anger and fear mixed with confusion just using words. Sure, the interrogations do get rather creative and somewhat shocking, but it is the psychology behind everything that is being said and done onscreen that allows the viewer to fully immerse themselves to solve the case with Gannon.
Nothing about The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is straightforward. Each character brings a depth to the screen that is not often found in films. Every actor allows for their character to leave an uneasy impression. They seem like rational men, but they are casually speaking about killing someone to save themselves. This complexity of characters adds to the thrilling tension radiating off screen. Dale’s Gannon is especially unique. He is a former cop so it is obvious he feels for his fallen brothers, but from his mannerisms to the look in his eyes the viewer can tell he is conflicted still about his place; authority verses a faceless army? What character could be more conflicting? Aramayo’s Keating is also an interesting study. What possesses someone so young to willfully remain mute while plotting to take up arms when the time is right? Each character could be his own study. That just reaffirms that every person involved in this project injected every ounce of talent they collectively possess in this project and it shows.
There will always be tensions between those that enforce the law and those that do not respect that authority. Police officers and others in authority must constantly watch their backs to not only ensure the safety of the public but their own personal safety. While it has been proven not all those in authority are clean and should be respected, what gives someone the right to murder a cop just because of a handful of bad ones?
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a complete mind blowing look at the two sides that will probably always be at odds with each other. It will definitely make the viewer take a moment to contemplate personal views on authority. Viewing the film just once will never do the work justice. It is for these reasons Cryptic Rock gives this film 4.5 out of 5 stars rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.