After writing such acclaimed films as Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan now takes on the third leg of the modern American frontier by not only writing but also directing Wind River. If those previous two films are any indication, this film looks to be a fitting end to that trilogy.
Synopsis: A chilling thriller that follows a rookie FBI agent who teams up with a local game tracker with deep community ties and a haunted past to investigate the murder of a local girl on a remote Native American Reservation in the hopes of solving the her mysterious death. (VVS Films)
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Graham Greene
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Rating: 18A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 107mins
For showtimes and more, check out Wind River on movietimes.com.
The film does an excellent job at showing us what we will be dealing with as viewers from the beginning. The Wyoming (Utah) countryside was as beautiful as it was overwhelmingly vast (and also snowy, very snowy). Because of this, it almost acts as another character within the story. The Native American culture played an equally large role within the story. The film respects this culture as we see how their lives are different than ours.
Rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Olsen) was called to the Native American reserve Wind River once a young woman was found murdered amongst the wilderness. Navigating the remote area would be asking a lot of anyone but the fact that she was a rookie also went against her. Luckily for her, local tracker Cory Lambert (Renner) was there to at least offer his knowledge of the area, although, we later learn that he may have had a motive in doing so. However, Banner still had to learn the new environment which was much different than what she was used to.
While watching Lambert and Banner, it was easy to get the sense that Banner was learning on the job and this aspect made it more grounded and made her more relatable as we get to experience this very different way of life through her. Lambert’s backstory added some dimension to his character and making him relatable. In solving the murder, both felt like they had something to prove but each went about it in different ways.
Along with Ben the police chief (Greene), Banner and Lambert’s investigation was compelling to watch as it took them all across the countryside which proved more difficult to maneuver than the people within it. It also touched the cultural differences, creating some fun little moments that were sometimes funny and brought some insight. Some may find the tone to be inconsistent but these moments helped to break up what was a dark story.
The investigation was compelling but some may find the resolution slightly underwhelming and perhaps rushed. With a running time of 107 minutes, the film could have used some more time to flesh out the other side of the story to add context to what ultimately happened. While it was still intense, it could have gone further in order to wrap things up more nicely. This was just a minor complaint as the journey more than made up for it.
The acting was the best part of the film. Renner and Olsen have worked together several times in the past (i.e. the Avengers films) so they used their already established chemistry with satisfying results, especially conveying a considerable amount of emotion during non-dialogue moments. Renner was great with a subtle performance of a damaged man, hiding behind his gruff exterior, looking for some closure. Olsen was as great as a determined rookie FBI agent, showing vulnerability without coming off as weak or annoying. Greene brought some much needed levity to the proceedings and Gil Birmingham was powerful as the victim’s father.
Overall, this was an excellent drama that was beautiful to look while also well-written, directed, and acted by Renner and Olsen. The ending could have been a little better but this was more of a moot point compared to everything else.