Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Matthew Del Negro
Directed By: Taylor Sheridan
Plot: Cory (Renner) is a hunter for the Fish and Wildlife in Wyoming, who tracks down predators when they start attacking livestock. Part of his jurisdiction includes the Wind River Indian Reservation. While hunting a pack of mountain lions, he stumbles across a frozen dead girl in the middle of nowhere. Because this is an Indian Reservation, it prompts an investigation by the FBI, who send Agent Jane Banner (Olsen) to investigate. She’s unfamiliar with the territory, and enlists Cory’s help in finding who was responsible for the death of the young girl.
What Works: Everything? I wish this was actually Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut. I think we can all ignore the shitty straight to video horror film on his resume, and just consider this the true debut of Sheridan. We’ll do this as a favor to him after delivering so many great screenplays the past few years. Here, he proves his true worth as a director, embracing the cold of his winterscape, and the silence of the lack of surroundings. He never lets his film score tell the story. It only plays, rather minimally, to remind you you’re in a film and not watching a documentary. This is necessary, because Jeremy Renner has truly never been better. He is fully immersed in this role. He becomes Cory, letting his past envelop him and ground him. Cory has a past that is relevant to the plot of the film, and that knowledge really keeps the audience invested in his character. In many ways, this film is just a Jeremy Renner vehicle, with Elizabeth Olsen’s character existing to help round and shape Renner’s Cory even more. I think Olsen did a good job, I just think she was eclipsed as a character by Renner. She also doesn’t get any emotionally devestating moments like the supporting character played by Gil Birmingham (who was also in Hell Or High Water, written by Sheridan). Birmingham shines in his few short scenes, tearing the audience to pieces. I found myself so emotionally invested in these people and their stories. The film is expertly edited, with each scene and segment feeling important, and beautifully shot. The wide shots in this film are fantastic, reminding you that solitary confinement really isn’t limited to enclosed spaces. Sometimes, you can be outside and all alone at the same time. Which is more terrifying?
What Doesn’t Work: There was one minor character who wasn’t a great actress, but her contribution to the film is so little that it didn’t really effect my enjoyment of the film. I kinda wonder how she got cast, but I understand maybe there aren’t enough Native American actresses out there. She also didn’t look old enough for her role. Like I said, very minor character, so it didn’t impact my enjoyment.
Final Word: Wind River is just another film this year that I love. I want other people to see it. I want to make sure that other people see it by showing it to them. It’s a film that easily could have been “best of” any year, and I would be happy with it. It just goes to support my theory that 2017 really has been a great year for film, despite the box office suggesting otherwise. Go see Wind River. You will not regret it.
Final Grade: A