The film begins with the main character, Gannon, a reclusive ex-cop played by James Badge Dale having dinner when he hears a firefight erupt in the distance along with a series of explosions. He retrieves a police scanner to hear that an active shooter has ambushed a crowd attending a police officer’s funeral before fleeing on foot. Upon learning that, he drives to a vacant warehouse where he meets members of a local militia he is also a member of. As they try to figure out what is going on, they realize the shooter is among them when Gannon discovers that a rifle and other sensitive items are missing from the armory.
What follows is a mystery thriller. The militiamen race against time to figure out who among them is the rogue shooter because they need to distance themselves to avoid suffering the state’s response. The tension only increases as they realize the situation has spiraled out of control when radio transmissions trickle in reporting similar attacks occurring across the United States inspired by the funeral ambush.
The bulk of the film takes place in the militants’ dreary warehouse hideout in the dead of night. Similar in concept to Conspiracy or (some of) Reservoir Dogs, the film follows the characters through a life-changing night as they turn on each other while the dominos begin to fall. It concludes with a twist that the more perceptive viewers may be able to foresee.
Accelerationism is an overarching theme of the story. While it is unclear at the beginning who perpetrated the act, militia members had grievances (both irrational and legitimate) and a willingness to take tangible steps to act on violent fantasies did not take long to unveil. While there is appetite on the militia’s side to watch the world burn, the state is no slouch. It is revealed that during his police days, Gannon was pressured by fellow officers to use dirty tactics against the senior leader of a well-armed racist gang in order to disrupt the network before they got too strong and violent.
While it was released in the US in early 2019, it is perhaps more relevant to our current anxieties than before. We live in a political climate in which violence has reared its head on a few occasions, although it thankfully doesn’t seem to have been normalized. Each time it flashes across news headlines, the whole nation seems to hold its breath and ask “Oh God, it wasn’t our side this time, was it?” But this is the product of absolutist rhetoric. When you genuinely believe that progressives are oathbreakers serving a kabal that eats children (which isn’t true), why would you not use violence to stop them from attaining power? And if you’re convinced every conservative is a closet fascist (which also isn’t true), why would you even consider making peace with them? Most people - progressives and conservatives - just want to survive. Let this film remind us of how things can get out of hand when we paint with such broad brushes.
The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is available for rent on Amazon.