'Wind River' (2017) - Film Review

Updated on June 5, 2020
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An in depth film review of 'Wind River' starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene and Gill Birmingham

Running Time
110 minutes
Taylor Sheridan
Taylor Sheridan

"Luck don't live out here"


Wind River gives the audience an insight into the secluded and chilling life of people who live on the Wind River Native American reservation and how much this environment takes from these individuals.

  • Corey Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a hunter that works for the wildlife and fisheries department. He finds the body of an 18-year-old Native American woman who has clearly been murdered. Dealing with his own demons, and in search of some type of redemption, he helps to find the killer.
  • Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is the FBI agent sent to investigate. She has no clue about this environment or the horrors that living in this place brings and must quickly adjust to this harsh climate.
  • The two characters team up to solve this mystery. The movie takes the audience on a real visceral experience that depicts the cultural barrier of this closed off and very isolated place.

Positives of 'Wind River'

This film shocked me in all of the right ways. I had no idea about American Indian reservations before watching this movie. It forced me to take note of what living in this environment entails and what these people must go through. You will definitely come out of this film with knowledge you never knew you needed.

  • Taylor Sheridan - The man that wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water has his debut feature as a director and he absolutely crushes it. This film feels deeply personal to him and it is resonated by what you see on screen. The story he creates is harrowing and captures the abominable and chilling setting perfectly. Sheridan has said, "It’s about a group of people, who are forced to live on a land, where people were not to meant to live," and the movie is an exact depiction of this.
  • Suspense - If you break down the layers of this movie, from the message the film is trying to get across and the clear focus on the environment, what you are left with is a fantastic murder mystery movie. The slow and eerie storytelling kept me engaged throughout and I was constantly trying to guess who had killed this woman. The film is very methodically put together and produces a supremely interesting action/drama/thriller movie. It is a slow build but once you reach the culmination of this movie, the pay off is so worth it and rewarding.
  • Environment - This, for me, is the movie's strongest aspect, as the audience is fully immersed into this film. The shots of the reservation, full of snow, are not only beautiful but mesmerising. However, the film takes a real interest in making you feel like you are there, as you can physically hear the wind, you can hear the chill and you can feel the cold. It makes the town a character, the town feels like a part of the film and is infecting everyone who lives there.
  • Screenplay and Dialogue - The dialogue of this film is brutal and it really hits you, as Sheridan manages to capture its location perfectly. The subject matter and the way the characters converse about it really forces you, as an audience member, to listen. The scene of the woman's autopsy and the context of it angered me so much. The discussion between Jane Banner and the doctor sank my heart, as it made me think this is really something that happens in everyday life and it's such a sad and gut-wrenching situation.

"Man, I get so mad. I wanna fight the whole world. You got any idea what that feels like?"

Performances of Note

The acting is fantastic and the casting is superb. Sheridan found actors that really represent the darkness of this place and help to build the sorrow that slowly builds throughout.

  • Jeremy Renner (Corey Lambert) - I don't know if Jeremy Renner has ever been better. As an actor that has struggled in modern times to get out of the Marvel bubble and differentiate himself from the character of Hawkeye, he smashes out of this bubble in emphatic fashion. He certainly makes the character his own as the deep, internal pain that his character is suffering from is captured perfectly by Renner. He manages to pull off a character that is somewhat accepted by the Native American people of this land, but also seems to be an outsider to the audience. Renner finds the perfect balance between these two character arcs, a task, I believe, to be supremely difficult. Amazing performance. `
  • Elizabeth Olsen (Jane Banner) - Like Renner, I don't think Olsen has ever had a more accomplished performance than her depiction of Jane Banner. She plays the fish out of water role in the first half of the film fantastically well. However, she never seems to be a weak character, and you clearly see how much strength she has. Olsen is increasingly believable and you find yourself rooting for her consistently. I felt the passion that she brought to the role and really feel that this was a project that she cared about and wanted to do the role justice. Superb.
  • Gil Birmingham (Martin) - I see this as the most overlooked performance in this movie. Birmingham plays the father of the daughter that has been murdered and the emotion he is able to convey floored me. The scenes between him and Renner have an edge to them that breaks through the cinema screen and hits you internally. The character is filled with so much grief and anger that his depiction is just captivating.

Just take the pain, Martin. You hear me? You take it. It's the only way you'll keep her with you"

Negatives of 'Wind River'

Although I think this movie is outstanding, it is not perfect. Even though I personally have very little negative to say about this film, I can respect that people will have their concerns with this movie.

  • The primary concern, that may be a problem for some audience members, is the pacing. This is a slow build and at times may feel like it drags. I really enjoyed the slow nature of this film, as the tension is consistently there. However, I am able to see that this wouldn't be for everyone. If you want an all out action film, this isn't the one.
  • This may not be a negative, but there are some scenes that are very, very hard to watch and may upset some viewers. It's important that audience members know there will be some scenes that are graphic and tough to stomach. I believe it adds to the ever-present darkness that clouds this town and vision of what Sheridan wanted to portray. However, it can be a tough watch and there will be scenes that could distress viewers.

"Oh, I don't know. How can you gauge someone's will to live?"


This is a fantastic and brutal thriller that I will never not be grateful for watching. From its chilling depiction of its environment to its masterful storytelling, it forced me to pay attention throughout. The climatic scene is one for the ages and the way it is portrayed and shot is really cool and unlike anything I've seen before. I am a huge fan of all of Taylor Sheridan's films and would have to say that this is my favourite. Although the pacing could be an issue for people who watch this movie, it really is one that you want to stick with, as the ending is so satisfying and one you don't want to miss!

4 out of 5

4 stars for 'Wind River'


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