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 films, Wind 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.
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.
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. Unfortunately, they settled for “telling” rather than “showing.”
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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