Wind River is based on the horrific true story centering around an FBI agent who teams up with a veteran game tracker in Wind River, Wyoming to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. Wind River is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote such films as Sicario and last year’s Oscar nominated film, Hell or High Water. Jeremy Renner stars as the veteran game tracker, who has a history with the murder victim, and Elizabeth Olsen stars as the FBI agent from Las Vegas. The story takes place at one of America’s largest reservations in Wyoming, Wind River. The movie opens on a chilling night in the mountains of Wind River with a young woman running across a large stretch of land. Here we learn that she was badly beaten previously, and ends up dying in the wilderness, leading to the investigation of her murder.
Taylor Sheridan isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with Wind River as he focuses on creating an old-fashioned crime thriller with good storytelling. I thoroughly enjoyed Sheridan’s storytelling in his previous films and how he crafted a slow-burning narrative that gradually led to a thrilling conclusion. Sheridan recreates that same feeling here. Throughout Renner and Olsen’s investigation, Sheridan reveals certain clues regarding the crime at a smaller pace that allows for him to build character development and maximize emotional drama. Renner’s character has a history with the victim he discovered miles from civilization and Sheridan explores that traumatizing past very well. By exploring his past and having Renner confront his inner demons, Wind River feels like a good combination of a man coming to terms with his life and a gripping crime thriller.
Renner and Olsen give career best performances that are very deserving of Oscar nominations. Renner is quite reserved and through flashbacks, we learn that he has a troubled past. By learning more about his character and his dynamics with his family, he becomes more of a character the audience can sympathize with. Olsen’s character is not familiar with the territory she is overseeing which leads to her butting heads with the locals, but her character is strongly written. She portrays a strong woman who doesn’t need saving in every scene. There are brutal action scenes where she is in the front of the action making her way through to get her questions answered. Olsen provides a lot of energy in her scenes by offering as much help as she can in the case.
Not to be overlooked is the performance from Gil Birmingham, who plays the father of the young woman who was found dead in the opening sequence of the film. He provides a great performance that is filled with grief and as well as anger. He is obviously filled with emotions due to what had happened to his daughter, but also angered due to the lack of support provided by the government.
Sheridan explores the land and environment of Native Americans living in Wind River that feels very heartbreaking. Sheridan captures how little help Native Americans receive when it comes to investigations and support when it comes to their small town. There is text at the end of the movie stating that there aren’t many statistics for missing Native American women because they are hardly ever found. I found that to be truly gut wrenching.
Wind River captures the beauty of the snow-capped mountains even though it was filmed in Utah. By offering the beautiful cold scenery, it matches up with the tone of the film which is equally chilling. The cold atmosphere of the film really latches onto the viewers and makes you feel cold inside. The constant authentic representation of the lack of government in this town and how Native Americans feel stuck in their hometown hit me like a moving train.
Wind River is a powerful film with Oscar-worthy performances. Taylor Sheridan shows us that he is an outstanding director as well as a writer. The chilling atmosphere really grabs you and does not let go. I am convinced that Taylor Sheridan is one of the best writers working right now. More attention should be given to Sheridan and his terrific style of writing, and Wind River is a perfect time to become a lifelong fan.
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Wind River runs 1 hour 47 minutes and is rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language.