The Standoff At Sparrow Creek 3


The first feature after only one short from writer/director Henry Dunham, The Standoff At Sparrow Creek certainly got some attention on the festival circuit. There were frequent comparisons to Tarantino, but this isn’t just a militia version of Reservoir Dogs. There’s more at work here than just flashy violence and tough guy clichés. Dunham is interested in the minds and motivations of the militia’s members. And what drove one of them to commit a mass shooting.

The Standoff At Sparrow Creek doesn’t waste any time getting started, by three minutes into the film ex-cop turned militia member Gannon (James Badge Dale, Hold The Dark, The Empty Man) hears gunfire in the distance. Within five minutes, he’s at the militia headquarters in a disused lumber mill. Details slowly trickle in, there’s been a mass shooting, Somebody shot up a local cop’s funeral, somebody with an automatic rifle, body armour and explosives. All of which are missing from their armoury.

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With a massive manhunt underway and other groups looking to emulate the attack, they have to find out who did it. And then figure out a way to defuse the situation. But nobody is confessing, and the clock is ticking.

Despite the poster and title, The Standoff At Sparrow Creek isn’t a siege/action film. It is a tight, claustrophobic thriller, with the actual standoff taking maybe ten minutes of the film’s running time. The focus is instead on Gannon’s use of his police interrogator training to find the killer. It works through dialogue, not action, as Gannon’s interrogations and the events outside of their hideout force them into more desperate measures.

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One thing that did concern me going in was how Dunham would portray the militia. Especially as this is from Cinestate whose films have generated some political controversy in the past. He doesn’t make them out to be the Confederate flag-waving, racial slur and conspiracy theory spouting loons we frequently see on the news. Thankfully, he doesn’t make them into heroic archetypes, either. They have their reasons for being there, but you’re left to judge them on their individual actions. The final resolution, however, does very much take a side. I won’t drop a spoiler and say which side, I’ll just say I found it entirely too convenient and predictable.

But up until that point, The Standoff At Sparrow Creek is a very tense thriller and an impressive debut for Dunham. I’ll be watching to see what he does next.

The Standoff At Sparrow Creek is available on VOD and DVD from RLJ Entertainment.

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