From the writer of Sicario (2015) and Hell or High Water (2016), Taylor Sheridan has his directorial debut with Wind River, and thus concluding his trilogy of films. Wind River is another exploration of the failings in fatherhood, and the modern American frontier, as it explores real events to create awareness for current day issues.
Wind River follows the story of two individuals attempting to uncover the murder of a young woman within the vast and grim landscape of a dilapidated Indian Reservation.
With lead actors Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, audiences are in uniquely good hands as both have had experience in darker toned films; Olsen starring in Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) and Renner for The Hurt Locker (2008). In this film, Renner plays a reserved and defeated hunter who works on government land and Olsen plays the role of an FBI agent who’s a little out of her depth. Renner shines in the quiet scenes throughout this film, and Wind River is not short on them – from his character’s extensive development with his role as father who feels defeated. Renner provides an admirable performance that enhances the story’s narrative. His quiet nature shines plenty of transparency on his past and it’s made clear that he’s been through a lot. Olsen plays her role well through the use of her subtle emotions throughout, but she never shows her full range of emotions throughout most of the film, as her character must remain in command and control of herself to get the job done. Majority of the performances offered intrigue and all played their parts towards the film’s overall moral.
As seen in his previous stories, not many characters in Sheridan’s films have arcs; this has almost become his theme, he stays away from both character arcs and exposition to create a story that unfolds naturally, and it seems to be working. Wind River is a fantastic dark mystery film that doesn’t apply the “who dun it?” question too intensely, its story is simple, and it focuses on its characters to help build towards an end meaning.
The film had a real moral awareness that it was trying to bring to light, mostly on the unreported disappearances of Native American women on federal reserves. While the film had a balanced tone, it wasn’t far off becoming like Nocturnal Animals (2016), yet holds its own identity by focusing on characters.
The cinematography was fantastic, it creates a cold tone throughout as well as a sense of loneliness and hopelessness in a hard land. While much of camera-work had itself figured out, the film did have some dragging in the editing department and some of the establishing shots felt unnecessary. The production design and visual effects for the action was vividly realistic and offered plenty of thrills through the use of its gun-play and blood effects. The soundtrack for the film could have had more depth to it, as it was relatively forgettable but is partially redeemed by the sound design.
Wind River offers all the pieces needed to offer up a satisfying crime/thriller film, it executes them with intent. Taylor Sheridan is well on his way to becoming a household name and I’m excited to see what he does with his next trilogy. Wind River is brutally honest with its truths; openly admitting to the stark reality of losing a loved one to depravity. It’s a satisfying thriller that doesn’t get too bleak, but still offers its share of dismal moments while serving up tension driven scenes.