Writer-director Henry Dunham makes a gutsy directorial debut with 2018’s The Standoff At Sparrow Creek. The thriller is a confined and claustrophobic character piece that unfolds at its own pace, drawing its audience into its slow-release plot. This is great stuff.
The sound of gunfire breaks the night silence as we join Gannon (James Badge Dale) in his secluded home. He takes out a police scanner and discovers a lone shooter has attacked a police funeral. He goes to a dark warehouse where we discover that he’s an ex-cop and member of a local militia. He meets with six of his men Ford (Chris Mulkey), Noah (Brian Geraghty), Beckmann (Patrick Fischler), Morris (Happy Anderson), Keating (Robert Aramayo) and Hubbel (Gene Jones) who help furnish him (and the audience) with a bit more information on the attack. The men are worried the cops will think they’re responsible for the shooting but things turn from bad to worse when they discover an assault rife, grenades and body armour is missing from their stash. An ex-interrogator, Gannon is tasked with discovering which member of the crew is responsible for the shooting.
A group of tense and tough men trapped in one location, The Standoff At Sparrow Creek is reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs and The Thing (but it never feels derivative of these). It’s a paranoia piece, a hunt for the evil within (even though these men are no angels). Dunham has written some great tough guy dialogue and each scene is like a little puzzle that plays into a bigger whole. He uses the one location well, the warehouse’s dark and cavernous rooms echoing each character’s bleak and skewed morality. Credit goes to cinematographer for Jackson Hunt for delivering some beautiful visuals – there’s a sequence lit by flashlights against the warehouse’s shutters that’s a wonderful stylish piece of visuals filmmaking.
All actors offer-up top-notch performances and each character has their own specific trait, but at the centre of it all is James Badge Dale’s Gannon. Over the years Dale has been secret weapon in a lot of big movies, but he’s finally given his moment to shine as the morally conflicted former cop with a secret to hide. It’s a relatively sparse role, but Dale adds many layers to the film’s closest thing to a hero. Hopefully The Standoff At Sparrow Creek will be seen by enough people to take his career to the next level.
The Standoff At Sparrow Creek is a sinewy thriller, a gritty piece that relies on tension rather than action. Henry Dunham has delivered one hell of a debut with this tough hombre chamber piece and it’s a wonder antidote to the wham-bam-whallop of most mainstream movies. The Standoff At Sparrow Creek is classic old-school thriller filmmaking which is well worth your time and hard-earned cash.