Thursday, August 24, 2017

Wind River: Movie Review

Thoughtful, compelling and distressing.
Wind River starts with the end of a life of a Native American woman. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say murder mystery, but it does feel like that is a cheap description. This film is a drama, a tightly wound drama at times, while on its way to avenging a murder (either through legal justice or revenge) it gives some thoughtful pause to racial tensions between Native Americans and their white neighbours, and the universality of grief. 2017

Directed by: Taylor Sheridan

Screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner

Images courtesy of VVS Films.
This is the third film written by Taylor Sheridan and almost the first film he’s directed (depending on whether you count the lesser-known horror film he directed six years ago). Continuing in the vein of both Sicario and Hell or High Water, Wind River features law enforcement on the tail of a crime. It looks more like Hell or High Water, with a Western/cowboy edge and desolate terrain. Thematically, though, he has taken cues from Sicario and really elevated it into a thoughtful meditation as opposed to just an action crime drama.

Elizabeth Olsen plays Jane Banner, a young FBI agent who is clearly out of her elements in the mountainous, wintry, unforgiving landscape of Wyoming. This is where we first see the thoughtful drama of Wind River unfolding. Movies love taking young ingenues and putting them into fish-out-of-water locales because it’s hilarious to see women struggling to adapt to conditions they are unfamiliar with – it’s cheap humour found in almost every genre. But Wind River rises above that. With Jane under-dressed to head out to the location of the dead body buried in snow, she turns to the wife at a local homestead to borrow a snow suit. The opportunity is taken to remind us of the animosity Native Americans have towards white people who just take things, and the scene also subtly introduces another dead girl, and the feelings of grief that are going to ruminate throughout the film.

The main plot of the film is Jane trying to work alongside the tribal police and the locals to uncover the death of a young woman. Note that she is white, a law enforcement official, an employee of the federal government, and a young woman – in other words, an incompetent enemy. Of course Jane is actually a smart, strong and resourceful woman but pushed to her limits here. She recruits a hunter, very familiar with the landscape and terrain, and one of the few non-Natives tolerated on the Res. Simply put, this is Jeremy Renner’s best performance of his career. Cory Lambert will help Jane as much as he sees reasonable, but there are other deaths to avenge.

Wind River is a very human tale of death and nature. It has things to say about race, gender, the will to live, and then puts that into an uncomfortable but compelling story about the end of a life of a Native American woman.

Similar Titles:

Hell or High Water

Best of 2017