REVIEW: Wind River
Directed by Taylor Sheridan
By Christopher Spencer
Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water), Wind River stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson as a Wyoming hunter-tracker and an FBI agent investigating a murder mystery in a small Native reservation town.
Taylor Sheridan is known for writing these dark tales of suspense and mystery sent against a backdrop of realistic and hard-hitting themes of the present day. Wind River is this same style of realistic suspense, as the movie, based off a true story, has statements to make about the modern day treatment of Native Americans and their identity in this world. One Native girl goes missing, is found dead in the snow, and the whole town is thrown upside down.
Wind River does so much with such a simplistic story that is ultimately just a man (Jeremy Renner) looking for whoever killed a girl he knows. Renner plays that down-to-earth everyman with such ease and resistant depth that it is an emotionally tortured performance with only a small inflexion of the voice or twitch of the lips.
Elizabeth Olson plays this reliable, emotionally complex co-lead with such ease and grace it is quite amazing. This movie showcases two solid, enriching performances from both leads, hammered home by the fact that they never end up in some cliché romance. They are simply good friends who help one another.
Wind River’s setting is quite jawdropping, featuring howling blizzards and the soaring mountain ranges of Wyoming, but I did feel as if the cinematography didn’t capture it all enough. In scenes of such incredible awe or high-intensity, DP Ben Richardson chooses a handheld approach, which limits the ability for us to be amazed or thrilled by specific shots or scenes.
The movie’s message is clear, and the realworld undertones are quite daunting, but the reactions to the death of the girl can range from wrenching with Gil Birmingham playing her father, to needlessly melodramatic. This is a simple story with a strong undercurrent, but the way it is handled can feel like a reach exceeding its grasp.
Wind River is a strong, yet surely flawed, debut direction from Taylor Sheridan, a great example of the acting ability from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson, and features some truly shocking shootouts. It is a solid addition to the Sheridan trilogy of Sicario and Hell or High Water, but isn’t the best depiction of a murder-mystery-thriller.