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Film Review – Wind River (2017)

With the summer season coming to a close, bigger budget movies are making way to smaller, more intimate films that tell contained stories.  One of the more prominent independent filmsWind River, is starting to gain traction among film fans for its merits.  Based around the murder of a woman on an Indian reservation, Wind River has a lot to offer, but is the payoff worthwhile?  The following review will be spoiler free.

Synopsis

Wind River is directed by Taylor Sheridan and stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen in lead roles.

Cory Lambert (Renner) is a local game tracker that helps locals throughout the Wyoming area .  After he is called to the Wind River Indian Reservation, he uncovers a young girl’s body in the snow, prompting local law enforcement and the FBI to get involved.  Agent Jane Banner (Olsen) comes to aid in the investigation, but it’s clear that she isn’t familiar with the area, allowing Lambert’s unique set of skills to be useful in the investigation.  As the two work together, the case becomes more and more grisly, putting their lives at stake.

Background

Wind River premiered earlier this year at Sundance to overwhelmingly positive reviews, prompting The Weinstein Company to purchasing the distribution rights to the film after months of wavering.  The film was one of the more positively reviewed films to come out of the film festival which caused the film to become one of the more anticipated smaller films of the second half of the year.

As for Taylor Sheridan, the writer and director on the project, Wind River is his first directorial effort.  He made a name for himself as a writer on both Hell or High Water and Sicario, two films that were among the best reviewed films of their respective years.  Many pointed to this film as his coming-out party in Hollywood as one of the next big talents in the industry.

Taylor Sheridan is a Star, and it’s Time You Recognized It

From the first few frames of Wind River, it’s clear that Taylor Sheridan has complete control.  He may not be just turning into one of the best writers in Hollywood, but also a great, emerging director.

Sheridan uses camera techniques and storytelling devices that normally only seasoned veterans would attempt.  There isn’t a shot or line of dialogue wasted.  Everything has a purpose, leading to an incredibly tight and effective thriller.  Scenes work seemlessly with each other, coming together perfectly to form a narrative that leaves you in the dark up until the correct time for the movie to show its cards.  Wind River has a somewhat nonlinear story, but you never feel discombobulated or confused.  With careful cuts and edits in place, you never feel left out of the experience.

From a filmmaking perspective, Wind River is very, very subtle.  The film feels incredibly tense and even disturbing just from a few calculated choices from Sheridan.  He perfectly sets the tone, allowing everything else to fall in place.

Wind River is not the work of a first time director.  Sheridan proves that he is a great talent.  He makes you feel exactly what the characters are feeling every step of the way.  Only a small amount of directors can accomplish this feat.

A tip of the cap goes to you, Mr. Sheridan.

Renner and Olsen Channel Their Chemistry from Previous Films

Sheridan has some great actors to work with as well, as both Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen provide very compelling performances.  From the instant these two are in the same frame, you can tell that they’re perfectly comfortable with each other.  If these two didn’t work as a pair, this movie wouldn’t have worked.  Their characters have their own strengths but still rely on each other for certain skills, making for a dynamic twosome.

Wind River may be Jeremy Renner‘s best performance yet.  He disappears as a hunter with a checkered past, becoming a man with a tough exterior while also becoming the emotional center of the film.

His counterpart, Elizabeth Olsen, also proves to be solid as an FBI agent that is out of her element.  She may feel like a fish out of water at times, but she’s never incapable.  It’s a nice little twist on the usual formula of a character coming to a new location that more movies should use.  There isn’t countless scenes of Olsen bumbling around and needing to be saved.  She’s good at her line of work, she just needs some assistance given the terrain.

Wind River has Great Symbolism, but it may have Gone Overboard

Taylor Sheridan creates some great discussion of Native American culture that weaves through Wind River.  Most of the time, there’s an undercurrent in the film that manages to discuss how poorly Native Americans are treated without straying from the scene or the main storyline.  The entire cast and crew should be praised for their attempt at social commentary as we hardly ever see this topic explored.

However, there are times throughout this film where the symbolism bleeds into preaching.  Wind River is very subtle in most instances.  Nevertheless, some moments abandon this mood.  Sheridan and co. could have trusted the audience to understand the themes present in the film.

But honestly, this point is more of a nitpick and may only bother some for a few fleeting moments.  Wind River is a triumph.

Final Thoughts

Wind River is a pretty great debut from writer-director Taylor Sheridan.  Although it has a few minor issues that keep it from being a transcendent piece of cinema, Wind River is a gripping thriller has the opportunity to open up discussion on a subject that needs more people talking about it.  It gets an A.

With blockbusters fading out of theaters in the coming weeks, now is the perfect time to support an independent film.  Wind River is very, very good, and it deserves your attention.

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Nick Kush

A current young professional, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

20 Responses

  1. Just saw this film today and it was great! Sheridan made one hell of a debut and Renner might have delivered his best performance yet! Loved reading your review, please check out mine (https://nerd-feed.com/2017/09/13/movie-review-wind-river/) and let me know what you think.

  2. rcarmean says:

    This is the 3rd film in 3 years for Taylor Sheridan and I think all of them have been excellent. Script, acting, photography: all are great. It’s wonderful to see him adding directing to his skill as a writer. I look forward to his next effort. Thanks for a fine review.

  3. i was hoping he would deliver. i loved sicario. i have yet to watch hell or high water. my roommate said it is really good.

    • Nick Kush says:

      Hell or High Water is at the top of my watchlist as well. Wind River has amazing writing so I expect nothing less than greatness from it!

  4. i can’t wait to see this movie. i’m glad taylor sheridan delivered. thanks for an informative review.

  5. floatinggold says:

    This movie wasn’t being played at my local movie theater, so I had to venture out a bit further away, but it was well worth it!

    The movie is so heart-breakingly beautiful. It had me on the edge of my seat the whole time! Thank you for the recommendation!

    The best review of the movie – The people, who came to see it, walked into the screening room talking with one another, their hands filled with popcorn, chips, etc. The movie started, and I could loudly hear various crunching sounds and general disengagement. However, shortly into the movie, any and all noises stopped. You couldn’t hear people eating, chewing, or even breathing. Everyone was just focused on the screen. People lingered after the movie ended. In silence. The mood was somber. People were lost in their thoughts.

    Potential spoilers below:

    I’m known to nit pick, so:
    1) I was hoping we would find out more about Emily. But I guess, in life, we don’t always get the answers we are looking for. And, I realized, that it didn’t really matter…
    2) The medical examiner said Natalie had vaginal tearing in several places, indicative of either multiple assailants, or multiple assaults by the same person. In the flashbacks we only see Pete raping her, and only really doing it once. So umm… it just made me wonder…
    3) Wasn’t the ex-wife supposed to be going somewhere? But then, she didn’t? Maybe I was just distracted by the crunching noises in the beginning that I didn’t pay too much attention.

    Any answers?

    • Nick Kush says:

      I think with #2 that we don’t really know the time that passed when it cut to Natalie being raped. Some of the other men could have had their way with her beforehand. Considering they all had a hand in beating the boyfriend to his death, they were certainly all in on it.

      As for #3, I think she was just there to allude to Corey past. Nothing more, nothing less. Through her, Corey because more of a dynamic character without it feeling hamfisted or cliched.

  6. Steve says:

    Now this film sounds exciting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention

  7. raistlin0903 says:

    This is now the third time I come across this film on a blog that I follow, and each time I am becoming more excited for it. Loved your review abd can’t wait to see this one. It arrives here one the 14th of september, so just a little longer ?

  8. This one’s going on the must-see list!

  9. Can’t wait to see this. Thanks for the review

  10. cherriopolis says:

    Looks like a good movie. Thanks for sharing.

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