'Wind River'-Film Review

Updated on September 3, 2017

Wind River Video Review

This film stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. It is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan is noted for striking gold having written the venerated “Sicario” directed by Denis Villeneuve and the universally acclaimed “Hell or High Water” directed by David Mackenzie. An inaugural film by this gentleman should definitely excite movie lovers as Sheridan is now able to bring what what he wrote on paper to the screen exactly the way he envisioned it. With “Wind River”, Taylor Sheridan proves to us that he is a more than capable director and I will surely be first in line to witness his next piece of work.

“Wind River” takes place on the eponymous poverty and drug stricken Native American Reservation in Wyoming during the culmination of winter as unpredictable snowstorms batter the land. Enter veteran game tracker Corey Lambert (Jeremy Renner). While hunting for mountain lions that have been mauling the livestock, Lambert discovers the frozen corpse of a Native American girl who happened to be the dearest friend of his deceased daughter. On account of issues pertaining to jurisdiction, an FBI agent named Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is flown in from Las Vegas to lead the investigation. Finding herself unable to investigate on her own, she asks Lambert for assistance. Given the murder’s personal significance to Lambert, he agrees and now we’ve got our film.

For the most part the aforementioned summary may make the film sound like your conventional “whodunit” murder mystery, but in reality it’s a whole lot more than that. From what I’ve seen with “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water”, Taylor Sheridan’s scripts offer some insight into complex social matters, most notably violence, economic destitution, elite corruption, and the manner in which the criminal justice system does a great injustice to the people it’s sworn to safeguard in the troubled regions of the American frontier. The subtext is largely established through the brilliant camera shots of the unforgiving land, thereby making the harsh environment a character of its own. What elevates Taylor Sheridan’s status as an elite writer is his utilization of those complex backdrops to delve into the internal dynamics of faulty characters. So while “Wind River” is a murder mystery at its core, it’s really more about how solving the mystery will transform Jeremy Renner’s character as he comes to terms with his past and works through unsolved problems regarding his daughter’s demise. Skillfully using the destitute and desolate reservation surrounded by less than favorable drilling company workers as a backdrop, Sheridan’s finely carpentered script, ridden will brilliant bouts of dialogue, tells a moving tale of friendship, grief, and how hopeless circumstances heavily influence the choices that human beings undertake.

People who enjoy murder mysteries will definitely be satisfied as this film contains the necessary components. We’ve got clever misdirection, hostile witnesses who refuse to cooperate, and of course the element of surprise. What I truly appreciated was the slow-burn aspect of this film as “Wind River” opts to steadily build tension until it cracks, resulting in a stupefying sense of shock when the body count rises. When you’re not busy gripping your armrests when moments of tension arise you’ll be leaning forward in your seat itching to know what happens next. However, I was slightly disappointed in the ending, which aimed to garner a reaction from the viewers but felt a little tacked on. Directly preceding the ending credits, Taylor Sheridan provides us with a text sharing the disturbing fact that there is no log for missing Native American women in the Native American community. This premise is never really delved into as the dead/missing Native American girl in question is pretty much present in one flashback. The premise deserves a movie of its own as “Wind River” is really more about the plight of the Native American community as a whole.

A film of this type requires its actors to bring their A-game and in that department I was not disappointed in the slightest. Jeremy Renner brings his finest performance to the table since “The Town”. Renner walks a tricky line as his character’s daughter died under mysterious circumstances, but on screen he’s not all overwhelmed with emotion and hellbent on revenge. He’s actually quite composed and compassionate, and if you take a closer look into his eyes you’ll see a small gleam of sorrow in there. His characters inhibits the maelstrom of emotions swirling inside his head, and when he does express himself it’s actually finely calibrated. Portraying such an emotionally complex character requires unbridled finesse and Jeremy Renner knocked it out of Fenway park onto Lansdowne Street with this one. Elizabeth Olsen is brilliant and Graham Greene as the sardonic reservation sheriff does a phenomenal job with his role, but I think the standout among the supporting cast was Gil Birmingham playing Martin, the grieving father of the murdered young woman, who brings to the table a vigorously heartbreaking performance.

With ace performances across the board and a brilliant script, “Wind River” is a must-see and possibly the best film of the year. Even with the positive critical reception I’m still calling this film underrated because of its disappointing box office results and limited release. I’d certainly be downhearted if I wrote and directed something this cool only for my work to sink into the depths of the cinematic abyss. I implore you to give “Wind River” a shot, it’s worth the time.

My score: 9/10.

© 2017 Rami Nawfal


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      Gusnaw 5 months ago

      Please share more reviews Rami.

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      Gus 5 months ago

      Amazing review as always!