I almost passed this movie up. It seemed bleak but what caught my attention is that it was written by Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, though this is the first time Sheridan has also directed. So was it a success?
On the Wind River reservation in Wyoming, a young girl is found dead. She’s found by an animal tracker (Jeremy Renner) who also happened to know her. Since it’s on a reservation, the tribal police have jurisdiction but an FBI officer (Elizabeth Olsen) is sent to investigate, since it might be considered a murder. What happens next is a thrilling investigation into how this girl (Kelsey Asbille) made her way six miles into the wilderness and what she was running from. We also have Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, and Julia Jones.
Wind River is absolutely compelling and probably one of my favorite films of 2017, so far.
If you liked either Sicario or Hell or High Water, this movie feels very much in the same vein. It’s very much dialogue and character driven, though there are some intense moments and gasps and shouts and action that will rattle you to the core. The mystery here, of what happened to this poor girl, is interesting and luckily not very predictable. I was worried there was going to be a “twist” of some kind but luckily, this movie avoided the cliche of trying to mess with us and instead told a compelling story without gimmicks.
The movie is anchored by Jeremy Renner, who gives likely the best performance of his career so far and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Oscar nomination for him. The movie slowly reveals his backstory and his delivery is perfect. We also have an incredible supporting cast, including Elizabeth Olsen who serves as our surrogate, the one coming into this hostile environment and trying to understand all the dynamics. She’s a character that makes some major mistakes but isn’t a damsel in distress either, she’s very capable in most scenarios. We also have some great Native American actors here, including the standout Gil Birmingham (known mostly for his work in Twilight) who gives an incredibly nuanced performance.
One thing that both Sicario and Hell or High Water also did was embrace the location as a character itself. This location here is beautiful at the beginning, giant snow-capped mountains, but it slowly becomes dangerous, as you realize how deadly this can be. The journey they take through the mountains, especially some hiking and jetskiing sequences, are breathtaking.
There is one scene that makes or breaks this movie, the scene where we finally discover what happened, and it’s one of the most terrifying and visceral scenes I’ve seen on-screen, which complements the rest of the movie and fills in the questions we didn’t know. It’s intense and may trigger some of you but it’s vital to this movie’s big payoff. We also get a surprise guest star that I had no idea was in this movie, only for this one scene.
What doesn’t work?
This movie does require patience, there’s a lot of silence and dialogue to wade through, so if you’re looking for excitement, this movie may not necessarily do it for you.
I can’t believe I almost missed this one. In a drought of decent movies, Wind River is fantastic. It’s beautiful and thrilling on the big screen, so catch this in theaters if you can and you’ll likely hear it brought up in “best of 2017” conversations come the end of the year.