(An almost spoiler free review) Make no mistake, American militias are comprised of Nazis, homophobes, antisemites, and xenophobes. These groups are anti-American and call on the end of the American government on a near daily basis. Sometimes these groups call themselves “patriots” leading these groups being labeled as part of a patriot movement. Contrary to what some people have said there are no good people in these groups.
Director Henry Dunham isn’t interested in showing the bad side of militias in his debut feature. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek starts with the leaders of an unnamed militia meeting in a warehouse after reports of a gunman shot up a police funeral are broadcast on the news. Their purpose is to find out who did it, separate themselves from the person, and turn the responsible party over to the police before the police find out who did it first. They’re out to save their hides.
This meeting starts as a contest of wills between Gannon (Jimmy Badge Dale, Hold the Dark), an ex-police officer who’s tasked with rooting out the responsible party and Ford (Chris Mulkey, Cloverfield), the leader. Ford and the other members think the gunman is Noah (Brian Geraghty, The Hurt Locker). Gannon thinks Keating (Robert Aramayo, the young Ned Stark in Game of Thrones) was the gunman. At least that’s what he wants the other to think because Gannon has a secret and so does Noah.
It’s a race against time to see who prevails before the police kick in the doors. When time runs low the standoff begins. The SASC is more Glenngary Glenn Ross than a typical movie about criminals fighting the law. Instead of finding the person who stole the leads they’re trying to find the person who killed the police officers. The tension between the militia members is just as taunt as it is between the cast in Glenngary Glenn Ross. No one is trusting each other by the time the third act begins and everything starts to unravel.
The unique thing about SASC is the lack of a score. In fact, there is no score in the movie and no songs. The only noise outside of the actors is the sound of a fork lift and the voices coming over a radio. A movie’s score helps move the movie along. It adds excitement to a scene, music enhances the emotions on screen, and no horror movie would be the same without a score. No score means it’s up to the actors to do all the heavy lifting.
The cast in SASC may be a cast of familiar faces but you can’t place where you’ve seen them, but it’s a strong ensemble cast. Most ensembles cast movies can succeed or die on the acting and screenplay. There’s no weak performances in the cast. Besides the already mentioned actors the cast includes Happy Anderson from The Knick and Bird Box, Patrick Fischler from Mulholland Dr., Lost, Twin Peaks, and Gene Jones from The Sacrament, Hateful Eight, and No Country For Old Men. It’s the cast’s strong performances and a tight script that make you forget there’s not a score until the very end of the movie.
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a strong debut film from a first time director. It very well could be the beginning of a new voice in independent cinema.