The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

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   The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

Gannon (James Badge Dale) is alone at his rural trailer when he becomes alarmed by the sound of gunfire in the distance.  We learn he is an ex-cop and member of a militia group which he begins to contact in order to discuss the incident and its possible ramifications.  By the time the eight men have gathered at the lumber warehouse where they store their arms, they've learned that a lone gunman walked out of the woods and opened fire on the funeral of a policeman with an AR-15, one of their AR-15s is missing and only one of the people present could have taken it in "The Standoff at Sparrow Creek."

Writer/director Henry Dunham's twisty, dialogue heavy chamber play is a taut psychological thriller that upends our expectations, pulling the rug out from under us in its final moments.  The cast is comprised of a strong mix of character actors, each of whom brings something different to the table. This small, virtually single-set film is lean and quick on its feet.

The last to arrive is Noah (Brian Geraghty), who will come under suspicion quickly.  Unbeknownst to all, though, is that he is both Gannon's brother and an undercover cop.  Gannon is determined to protect him and begins one-on-one questioning in the facility's spare, brightly lit basement, tying Morris (Happy Anderson) to a chair, applying reverse psychology in a tale which plays with us in parallel.  Everyone has a seeming alibi, like Hubbel (Gene Jones) and Morris's  claim to have been hunting, yet none of their stories are airtight.  As tensions rise, we learn of these men's legitimate grievances and there is more to their banding together to fight a government turned against them than former membership with the Aryan Nation would initially indicate.

With Beckmann (Patrick Fischler) at the radio reporting similar incidents in other states, Ford (Chris Mulkey) questioning Gannon's authority and the mute youngest member, Keating (Robert Aramayo), surprising everyone by unleashing his philosophy, Hubbel suggest this is the day they have planned for.  Then police arrive on the scene and it's lights out, armed men on either side of metal bay doors eerily illuminated by flashlight.

Dunham's spare direction utilizes his drab setting to strong effect, accentuating frayed nerves with the low drone of ambient noise.  A tossed off inventory - of bump stocks, Kevlar and explosives - is chilling when we realize that it is estimated that there are over 1,000 such groups active in the U.S. today containing far more members than the group at Sparrow Creek.  But Dunham isn't interested in presenting either a right or left wing polemic, instead presenting something more character driven and more disturbing in its insidiousness.  "The Standoff at Sparrow Creek" is a gritty little nail biter.

Grade: B

Robin's review will be published on week of the film's opening, 1/18/2019.
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