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Wind River - Movie Review

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Wind River - Movie Review

5 starsScreenwriter Taylor Sheridan concludes his American frontier trilogy with Wind River, a suspenseful murder mystery set in the snow-covered barrens of Wyoming. Sheridan burst on the scene with his blistering essay on the epidemic of violence along the Texas/Mexico border with Sicario, then hit on the collision of vast wealth and degrading poverty in last year’s Hell or High Water. With Wind River, Sheridan concludes his thematic triptych by taking on the great failure of the Native American reservation.

There is no questioning Sheridan’s tremendous talent as a great Hollywood screenwriter. He’s one of the best working today. His knack for creating brilliantly realized characters who speak with perfectly natural dialogue is virtually unparalleled. However, one big question about his full body of talent remains unanswered. Can he make that ambitious leap from pen to chair? Though his directorial debut is officially marked by a ridiculously simple-minded little torture porn flick from back in 2011, Wind River marks the moment Taylor Sheridan delivered as a big-time Hollywood director. And boy, does he deliver!

Wind River stars Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert, a Fish and Wildlife ranger who happens upon the frozen body of a Native American woman on the Wind River Indian Reservation in the wilds of Wyoming. His discovery on Federal land naturally triggers an FBI investigation to determine if the woman’s death was caused by a homicide.

The nearest federal agent is green-behind-ears Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) who is dispatched from her Las Vegas base. Ill-equipped for the sub-zero climes of the Wyoming winter, Banner enlists Lambert’s assistance to help uncover the truth behind the woman’s demise. Lambert, still grieving his own daughter’s death under similar circumstances, readily accepts the challenge.

Accompanied by tribal police chief Ben (Graham Greene) and the handful of fellow peace officers tasked with patrolling an area the size of Rhode Island, Banner begins her investigation that slowly reveals a seamy underbelly of greed, crime, drug use, and rampant corruption. A closing title card informs us that the number of Native American women who go missing each year is unknown; a fact that is both enlightening and enraging at the same time. Beneath the majestic beauty of its panorama is a meaty socio-political commentary we mustn’t ignore. We wouldn’t care so much were Sheridan unable to create characters that matter.

While Renner and Olsen deliver near career-best performances, it’s the pen of Sheridan that really becomes the standout star in Wind River. Known for populating his stories with rich, lovingly-crafted characters who are both authentically human and deeply flawed, it’s his landscapes and environments that almost always steal the show. Whether the stench of secret drug cartel tunnels beneath the US/Mexico border in Sicario, or the soul-crushing despair of a sun-bleached west Texas in Hell or High Water, we don’t watch his films, we experience them. And that remains true in Wind River where the biting twenty-below-zero landscape is, itself, a primary antagonist. It can awe you with its majestic beauty but its pitiless brutality can kill you in a matter of minutes. And DP Ben Richardson’s camera helps enforce the idea of nature as apex predator while enhancing Sheridan’s drive to expose man’s fragility in the face of a raw environment.

There’s very little to knock in Wind River. Though it is a genre film, its richly-layered underpinnings have plenty of sobering things to say about the endless plight and ongoing struggles of some of America’s most mistreated people. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the beauty of the film’s placid landscapes. There’s always an unnerving something else lurking in the darkness of a place where the rule of law gives way to the laws of nature. You’re never safe in a Sheridan film.

Wind River - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language.
98 mins
: Taylor Sheridan
Taylor Sheridan
Kelsey Asbille, Jeremy Renner, Julia Jones
: Mystery | Drama
Nothing is harder to track than the truth.
Memorable Movie Quote: "This isn't the land of waiting for back up. This is the land of you're on your own."
Theatrical Distributor:
The Weinstein Company
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 4, 2017 (wide)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Wind river is that a chilling thriller that follows a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams up with the local game tracker (Jeremy Renner) with deep community ties in a haunted passed to investigate the murder of a local girl on a remote Native American reservation in the hopes of solving her mysterious death.

No details available.

Wind River - Movie Review

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