Taylor Sheridan has quickly made quite the name for himself over the last three years, specifically in the area of gritty dramas. Wind River is only his third credit in the writing chair. The other two were Sicario (2015) and Hell or High Water (2016), both of which had viewers on the edges of their seats from beginning to end. If you saw either of them, you know just what fine pieces of work they were. Now comes his third attempt and to raise the stakes even more, Taylor Sheridan is also directing this crime mystery. How does he fare having complete control this time around? Let’s jump right into things.
Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a US Fish and Wildlife Service agent tasked with acting as a human balancing mechanism between man and nature. His job is to protect both man and nature depending on the situation. While out on duty in a remote area of the woods, Cory discovers a young deceased woman lying dead in the freezing snow. It’s pretty clear that she did not die of natural causes so a call is made to the FBI to investigate further. Special Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is tasked with traveling to Wyoming in order to determine if indeed this investigation does warrant being turned over to the Bureau for further investigation.
As the layered plot of Wind River unfolds, a much larger, and more disturbing one, starts to take form. A murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation becomes even more complicated as new facts come to light. Cory and Jane are at a real disadvantage as things begin to escalate. Get ready for some shocking revelations on the way to salvation.
Wind River is not a Hollywood fluff piece full of glitz, glamour and sexy action sequences. As a matter of fact it is quite the opposite. Being based on true events, the path taken is more of a practical realistic one. The acting is as solid as the snow covered landscapes witnessed throughout. Jeremy Renner gives one of the best performances of his career. You might miss it at first glance, but his emotional baggage is mesmerizing. Elizabeth Olsen has shown the propensity for being able to pull of a dramatic roll and she shows time and time again why she was cast. There are quite a few other actors lending their supporting talents and, collectively, they are very good.
The one downside that comes to mind is the film’s pace. It is slow and steady for the middle third of Wind River. You might even have a few internal struggles while trying to keep your eyes open. Just know that the pace does pick in the final third as does the intensity. Even Sheridan’s last work suffered from a few lulls but that didn’t stop Hell or High Water (2016) from getting a considerable amount of Oscar hype. Beauty can sometimes be understated, I would consider this one to fall right into that same neighborhood.
While being a totally different type of movie than its new competition in theaters this weekend, Wind River should stand out for its relentless attention to detail. This is one of the rare times that I didn’t walk away saying “why didn’t they just do this?” or “how come no one tried that?”. This is another big win for Taylor Sheridan as he brings realism and levity to something that’s also meant bring awareness. There are far more missing people in the US than are ever reported. Wind River tells the story of just one person in one culture and sadly it isn’t something that you’re likely to see reported on CNN. You can see Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen reunited in theaters right now.