Wind River (2017)

  • Time: 110 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Mystery
  • Director: Taylor Sheridan
  • Cast: Jeremy Renner, Jon Bernthal, Elizabeth Olsen


An FBI agent teams with a town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation.

3 reviews

  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5 )

    GRADE: B


    IN BRIEF: Taylor Sheridan’s riveting murder mystery is a well written thriller that boasts a terrific performance by Mr. Renner.

    SYNOPSIS: On a remote Indian reservation, a FBI recruit and a local townsman team up to solve the murder.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 47 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: The riveting opening scene in Taylor Sheridan‘s Wind River, immediately draws us into this thriller: At a Native American reservation, a bloodied young woman trudges through the sub-zero elements in central Wyoming, finally collapses, and dies. Barefoot and frightened, her wintry death sets up a murder mystery. Her frozen body is found by the town’s wildlife officer / hunter, Corey Lambert (Jeremy Renner). Leading the investigation is FBI agent Jane Benner (Elizabeth Olsen). A newbie with the bureau, she wisely knows that in order to solve this case, she needs local help. So she enlists the aid of Corey, who knows the town and its people, although he is a bit of a loner with very little social skills and a tragic past. The duo set out to find their suspects and bring closure for their victim and her family.

    Screenwriter Mr. Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Sicario) once again tells his story with skill and style. He focuses on the murder investigation while subtly showing the socioeconomic hardships of the community and its toll on the citizenry. The town is filled with desperation and loss and its inhabitants are all prime suspects in search of redemption. This talented screenwriter, making his fine directorial debut, delivers an engrossing narrative and imbues his characters with insightful dialog that keeps his film riveting from start to finish. His film is atmospheric and moody and his characters have an authenticity that is usually lacking in this genre.

    The one issue that I had with the film, which keeps it from being highly recommended, is the mystery itself. The storyline remains involving but it is just too simplistic, needing more intricate plot structure to completely satisfy. When we finally meet the perpetrators, everything appears far too obvious. That said, the screenplay still resonates with its complex characters and their impassioned monologues and eloquent conversations that create lovely moments about the human condition.

    The acting is uniformly strong. Graham Greene as Ben, a Native police officer, provides his customary able support and Gil Birmingham as the victim’s father is quite moving. (The scenes between the two grieving fathers are very poignant and emphasize the personal drama most effectively.) Kelsey Asbille and Jon Bernthal make a lasting impression as the film’s doomed lovers. Ms. Olsen is fine as the FBI agent, although her character’s naivety and lack of training seems bewildering at times, which cuts into the logistic of the story.

    However, Mr. Renner is a revelation. He underplays his character’s angst and subtly shows his sense of mourning. He internalizes the man’s melancholy and regret. His is a powerful performance and one wishes this gifted actor would be offered more complex roles than his typical shoot-em-up action fare and playing one-dimensional comic book superheroes.

    Wind River has its scenes of action and sudden violence in its storytelling that will please the action aficionados in the audience. Yet the film’s greatest asset and driving force is not so much the mystery or its action sequences. It is the film’s deeply personal human story that slowly unfolds. That, and Mr. Renner’s memorable character and Mr. Sheridan’s poetic words of wisdom make this moviegoing experience quite special.

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  • An FBI agent straight out of Las Vegas, hires a game tracker to help solve a rape and eventual murder. That’s the essence of Wind River, my latest review. Elizabeth Olsen plays agent Jane Banner and Jeremy Renner plays Wildlife Service expert Cory Lambert. So OK, it has been over a month since I’ve given a favorable write-up. With “River”, I figured I was due.

    Distributed by the Weinstein Company and released at Sundance via January of this year, Wind River is filmed in Utah but its setting is Wyoming. So yeah, we get it. It’s darn cold in Wyoming. And despite a few images of beautiful, mountainous scenery, “The Cowboy State” is a pretty dour place to live in as well. A wrongdoer in “River” quips, “there’s nothing here but snow and silence!” Later on, the protagonist preaches, “you either survive or surrender”. Finally, that same protagonist exclaims, “luck don’t live out here”. Here’s an idea, why don’t these characters just get up and get the heck out of Wyoming. Jeez.

    Anyway, Wyoming is like a star in “River” and it’s referenced to the point where obviousness becomes a dirty word. I mean, this isn’t Devil’s Tower Wyoming we’re prattling about nor is it summertime Wyoming like in Brokeback Mountain. No I’m talking the Wind River Indian Reservation where blizzards come and go, temps drop to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, crime/drug use is a mainstay, and the police force is comprised of only six people. To quote humorist Dorothy Parker I say, “what fresh hell is this?”

    Now as a movie clocking in at just under two hours, Wind River is like Fargo on downers, Cliffhanger minus the popcorn heroics, or The Grey without crashing 747’s. In hindsight, it’s a brutal motion picture, cloaked in vulnerability, violence, false mercy, loud bullet-ridden gunfire, and naked depression.

    Director Taylor Sheridan working from his own, figurative script (Sheridan penned 2015’s Sicario), doesn’t obsess with wide shots and cinematography that has the wilderness at his full disposal. He’s more into his story which is well told even if the methodology is straightforward in the whodunit department.

    Taylor carefully inserts a devastating flashback toward “River’s” conclusion while getting superb performances from his leads (Renner and Olsen). He does go a little overboard adding a souped- up Mexican standoff and a death sequence by which the main malefactor dies from inhalation of sub-zero temperatures (it didn’t even look like it was that cold out). But hey, with all the blood and white flakes and symbolism (you could even throw in a haunting violin soundtrack as well), it’s just way too difficult for me not to recommend Wind River. Rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • Snow and silence are all one has on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and in that snow and silence lies the body of a young Native American woman discovered by Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a wildlife officer whose main duty is to hunt and kill predatory animals. The victim’s name is Natalie Hanson – her feet are bare, her lungs burst from inhaling the sub-zero cold, there are signs of rape, and she ran for at least six miles before giving out.

    The mystery of Natalie’s death forms the crux of Wind River, Taylor Sheridan’s second directorial effort (the first being the low budget horror film, Vile), though as with his screenplays for Sicario and Hell and High Water, the thing that defines the genre is not necessarily central to what the film is truly about. Instead, Sheridan uses the genre as a framework to express insightful observations about the landscape and the mentality of the people within that landscape. Which is not to say that he gives the genre short shrift – there are influences here ranging from John Ford and Sam Peckinpah to televised Scandinavian detective thrillers such as The Killing – but what could have been a by-the-numbers whodunit is elevated by Sheridan’s inculcated specificities.

    Sheridan’s screenplays are elegantly constructed, lean but never lacking, and they have a way of rooting themselves within you so that, for example, the exchange between Lambert and Natalie’s father Martin (Gil Birmingham) mutates into something more than one man offering cold consolations to another. “The only comfort is getting used to the pain,” Lambert tells Martin. Not only do you feel the depth of Martin’s loss, but the strong suggestion that Lambert’s words are derived from firsthand experience. Indeed, Renner’s contained performance is a marvel of calibration as one gradually realises how much of a human hurt locker Lambert is. His personal connection to the crime leads him to help Jane Banner (an excellent Elizabeth Olsen), the rookie FBI agent called in from Las Vegas who may be ill-equipped to handle this frozen tundra of a town and its often narrow-minded inhabitants, but who consistently proves herself to be tougher than she appears.

    “This isn’t the land of backup, Jane. This is the land of: You’re on your own,” Tribal Police Chief Ben (the wonderful Graham Greene) says and, indeed, the film is as much about survival as it is solving a crime. Everyone in Wind River is trying to survive – racial discrimination, weather conditions, living with loss and pain, each other – and they don’t often have the luxury of letting themselves feel emotions. Which is why moments such as the embrace between Lambert and Martin, Lambert sharing the story of his loss with Jane, and Natalie in bed with her boyfriend Matt (Jon Bernthal) are even more powerful in their quiet and vulnerability.

    Sheridan not only succeeds in creating a humanistic drama and a gripping murder mystery, he also crafts some nifty and suspenseful action sequences such as the 10-man Mexican stand-off that is the highlight of the film’s third act. Soulful and visceral, Wind River firmly proves that Sheridan’s talents lie not only on paper but behind the camera as well.

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