Movie Review: Wind River
Wind River premiered in theaters at the beginning of August but has slowly been expanding its theatrical release. This murder mystery was written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote Hell or High Water and Sicario, and it was also directed by Sheridan. Jeremy Renner plays U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker Cory Lambert, and Elizabeth Olsen portrays FBI Agent Jane Banner. The cast is also supported by Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, and Graham Greene.
The film begins with a young woman hurriedly running across a snow covered landscape, which is later identified as the Wind River Indian Reservation. Her body is later found by tracker Cory Lambert (Renner), who finds her in the process of tracking a mountain lion. The local authorities are called in as well as an FBI agent to determine if it is a homicide. Agent Jane Banner (Olsen) orders a full autopsy on the young woman, who is identified as Natalie Hanson. While the autopsy shows signs of rape, the actual cause of death cannot be ruled a homicide, which makes it impossible for Banner to call in FBI back-up. With a huge area to cover and the local authorities being understaffed, Banner asks for Lambert’s help in tracking their killer. As more information about the area and the case unfolds, though, it becomes apparent that Olsen and the whole team is woefully unprepared for what this case might reveal.
First of all, I have to say that Taylor Sheridan is one of my favorite new writers in the business. His work on Sicario and Hell or High Water was fantastic, and Wind River just continued on that success. Sheridan has this distinct way of writing dialogue, focusing on the characters and structuring a story in a different way. That was especially apparent in Wind River, and it benefitted not just from his story but also his guidance as the director. It resulted in a murder mystery that wasn’t accented by huge action sequences but instead led by character moments and this underlying tension that never dissipates.
One of the most striking aspects of this film is how everything is tied together and layered. There’s so much depth to the characters presented, and there’s this beautiful juxtaposition between Lambert’s knowledge and experience in that place and that world and Banner’s inexperience and naivety in the scope of this place. All of which is highlighted by these stark and bitter cold landscapes. Also, there is this ongoing theme of survival and strength. The solving of Natalie’s death, the story of Lambert’s past, and this undercurrent of vastness all weave together to provide a compelling narrative.
While I think the themes and scenery and characterizations all come together beautifully, it could not have been done without the insanely talented cast. I believe that Jeremy Renner gives one of the best performances of his career as this tracker and father. Also, Elizabeth Olsen plays the inexperienced but quick learning Banner well. Their performances might stand out the most, but the supporting cast all deliver and make their mark on the story. While I might have been pulled out of the storyline once or twice by the music choices, that is literally the only complaint I can give. The music was appropriate, seeing as it takes place on a Native American reservation, but it did catch me off guard several times. Overall, I’m not sure I really breathed through most of the movie, and if you’re looking for one compelling murder mystery thriller, then this is well worth the watch.