Wind River: Chilly Truths

Film Review

    The moody, bleak cinematography along with the desperate tone in Wind River, definitely reminded me of Unforgiven (1992), one of the great westerns of all time. It’s a chilling solid mystery thriller with some good acting performances, and a stellar story set on a Native American Reservation for Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes in the Central Western portion of Wyoming.   

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    The US Wildlife Fish and Game tracker, Cory Lambert (played by Jeremy Renner of Avengers, Mission Impossible and Arrival), stumbles across the body of Natalie Hanson, an eighteen year old resident of the area. The FBI suspects foul play and sends an inexperienced agent, Jane Banner (played by Elizabeth Olsen), to find out what’s going on. Hanson and Lambert team up and discover the truth.

    Wind River is a film that succeeds mostly on the strength of its atmosphere. It’s a very bleak-looking film matching the film's story very well. As mentioned already, Wind River is not exactly a “happy film”. It’s a very slow-burner thriller, and as such, may not be for everyone, but I appreciate the film’s endless shots of winter. Setting the story in Wyoming, was a smart decision on, director and screenwriter, Taylor Sheridan’s part (screenwriter of Hell or High Water and Sicario), as there is a great sublime sequence, completely in silence, where Lambert follows random footprints in a just wonderful winter atmosphere before he discovers the body. The film also has a memorable sequence involving a mountain lion. Helping the film tremendously is Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s musical score. Like a lot of their other film scores (Hell or High Water, Assassination of Jesse James), it’s short, but anytime the music appears, it’s meant to convey either a tone of despair and melancholy, or it can sound warm-hearted during the more reflective scenes.

    It’s nice to see Jeremy Renner in a leading role, especially in a part that fits him: a serious, mostly humorless, US Fish and Wildlife Service tracker. There’s an especially good scene where his character reflects upon his past and features some terrific subtle acting. There is nothing over the top about his work, at all. Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Civil War, Godzilla), may seem miscast as a FBI agent, and even, while in character, admits to being out of her element, is really good in her part. The rest of the supporting cast is filled with some familiar names, such as Native American actor, Graham Greene (The Green Mile, Dances With Wolves), whom is always a pleasure to see, plays a friend of Lambert’s named Ben, and Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, Sicario) plays a small, but significant part, as Matt Rayburn.

    If there’s any issue I had with the film, it’s that it feels like it’s the work of an inexperienced director. While this isn’t Sheridan’s directing debut (he previously directed a horror film named Vile), it may as well be. He's had significant prior success as a screenwriter, but screenwriting is very different from directing. He didn't do a bad job, but if he decides to just stay a screenwriter full-time, and only occasionally directs, I wouldn’t be surprised. Wind River is a solid chilling thriller, with some effective atmosphere, and certainly a good and very watchable film.

Now playing at The Nugget Theater, Hanover: 4:20, 6:50, 9:15 and Claremont Cinema 6:  4:10, 7:00, 9:30.

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