Movie Review : Wind River (2017)
There's a strong possibility you've never heard of Wind River. That's because it came out on August, squeezed between blockbusters like Dunkirk, The Dark Tower and The Emoji Movie, which somehow grossed 200 millions worldwide. And it's a winter mystery. Who the fuck wants to see frostbite and snowmobiles when it's 100 degrees outside? So, Wind River grossed 33 millions worldwide despite being one of the best mysteries I've seen in a couple years.
This is why we can't have nice things, guys. Because when they're getting done, nobody pays attention and we go watch a movie about funny buttons on our phones instead. But Wind River just came out on Netflix, so it's not too late to make it immortal.
Wind River is the story of Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a fish and wildlife agent working on an Indian reservation, who's lost his daughter a couple years prior. When his daughter's friend Natalie (Kelsey Asbille) turns up dead barefoot in the middle of nowhere, the lone FBI agent sent to investigate Jane Banner (the sneaky-talented Elizabeth Olsen) asks for his help. He knows the land better than anyone and can notice details others would loose in all that snow. Lambert accepts, but it reopens some oooold wounds.
Let's talk about Taylor Sheridan for a moment. Not only he wrote Wind River, but he directed it too. He's adorable. He so obviously wants to write these deep and impactful movies. His first high profile screenplay Sicario was all right, but it benefited from Denis Villeneuve's superb direction. Hell or High Water tried so fucking hard to be the poor man's version of No Country for Old Men (and other iconic movies) that it felt like a clumsy pastiche. But Wind River kind of gets where Taylor Sheridan always wanted to go. It's still harvesting the shit out of its audience's emotions, but it does have transcendent moments.
The scene where Cory, Jane and the reservation's chief of police Ben (Graham Greene) visit the victim's parents exemplifies Wind River's emotional complexity well. At first, they confront a stone cold father (Gil Birmingham) who doesn't seem like the biggest fan of law enforcement. It seems like a straightforward, almost cliché scene in this sort of movie, until Jane discovers the mother crying and cutting herself in a bedroom. Cory walks into the scene, Natalie's father starts crying in his arms and the entire dynamic of the scene changes. It goes from needlessly confrontational to heartbreaking when you find out Cory, Jane and Ben walked into a crisis situation Natalie's father was ill-equipped to deal with yet tried to conceal anyway.
Wind River is a confident film. Taylor Sheridan trusts his writing and his setting to communicate tone and emotion, so the direction is not needlessly dark. There are beautiful mountains and forest all around and, most times, it's beautiful outside. The Wind River Indian reservation looks like a place where hipster tourists would go hiking and that contrast with the bleakness and ongoing drama is definitely one of the film's biggest strengths. It allows a blue collar talent like Jeremy Renner to efficiently deliver his lines without calling too much attention to his one-note game, among others.
I loved Wind River. It's not a perfect movie, it's simple and even predictable at times, but it thoroughly shines through its spirited execution. I've bounced off the couch a couple times during my viewing because it nailed some classic scenes so well I couldn't contain myself. I cannot tell you when was the last time it happened. It's been a couple years for sure. Wind River is a conventional mystery, but it's an excellent one. It's not going to waste your time. Give Taylor Sheridan his own movie studio. I'm onboard with what that dude is doing.