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Wind River (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

Wind River


Starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbille, James Jordan, Graham Greene, Martin Sensmeier, Ian Bohen, Matthew Del Negro, Eric Lange, Hugh Dillon, Teo Briones, Tara Karsian, Tokala Clifford, Althea Sam, Apesanahkwat and Blake Robbins.

Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan.

Directed by Taylor Sheridan.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 111 minutes. Rated R.

From the evidence of three films – Sicario, Hell or High Water, and now Wind River – writer (and now director) Taylor Sheridan is not a light-hearted man.

Which is not to say he doesn’t make enjoyable films, but they are awfully dark. And despite the fact Wind River is completely blanketed by white snow, it is a very, very dark movie.

It takes place on a Montana Indian reservation, one which gives the film its title. At the start, we watch an athletic teenaged girl running through a snow-covered plain with a light coat and no shoes. We don’t know who she is or what she is running from, but whatever it is must be pretty terrible to get her to run this distance on the freezing tundra barefoot.

Because this mountain range is beyond simply cold. Getting lost out there for a matter of minutes could cause you to freeze to death if not properly attired for the elements. Between the constant snow, the gale force winds and the frigid temperatures, the fact that she is able to run at all is something of a miracle.

Fast forward a few days and we meet the real central character of the film. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a tracker on the reservation, one of the few non-native-Americans to work there (his soon-to-be ex is a member of the tribe). Cory spends his days scaring wolves away from livestock. He is in the middle of a somewhat tense breakup, and they have a middle-school aged son, as well as a teen daughter who died mysteriously the year before.

One afternoon, while searching for a mountain lion and her two cubs, which have been killing local livestock, Lambert stumbles upon the frozen body of the girl we saw in the prologue. He recognizes her as Natalie (Kelly Asbille), the daughter of a friend and the best friend of his late daughter.

The tribal police have no idea why or how she would have been so far in the wilderness, with no shoes and light clothing. They reach out to the FBI for help on the case, and the Feds send Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), a smart-but-green agent who has no real understanding of life on the tundra and tribal life.

She asks Lambert to be her guide and together they slowly pursue the truth, interviewing locals, hoods, government contractors and others trying to get to the bottom of things. In the end, the story turns out to be much more violent and horrible than they imagined.

As stated before, Wind River is an extremely dark film. There are very few light moments in the film, much less jokes, to ease off on the oppressive atmosphere. Most of the ones that do come are compliments of the great Graham Greene as the stoic, but pithy, tribal sheriff.

However, the dialogue is crisp, the acting is haunting (check out Gil Birmingham as the father of the victim) and the scenery is stunning.

You don’t go to a movie like Wind River in search of a good time, and you don’t get one here. However, if you can handle the film’s extremely bleak world view, Wind River has much to recommend it for.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: August 11, 2017.

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