Taylor Sheridan (Sons of Anarchy, Veronica Mars) has penned Sicario and Hell or High Water, two films that have been received well critically. [For the record, I hated the former and loved the latter, but both are excellent stories.] Wind River is Sheridan’s script, as well as his second directorial stint, and the outcome is scintillating film.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) discovers a frozen Native American woman in the snow of the Wind River Reservation, hours before a blizzard hits. His discovery merits the investigation of rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who is sent solely to determine if there’s a case, not actually find the murderer. Under the watchful eye of the reservation’s policeman, Ben (Graham Greene), the two unlikely partners begin to seek the truth behind the dead woman’s murder.
While told primarily in order, Wind River allows us to see how the grisly events unfolded that lead to the murder. It’s an exciting murder mystery/thriller, but it’s also a troubling social commentary on the way that some lives are not as valuable as others. [When the Harvey Weinstein accusations broke, the filmmakers quickly shifted from the Weinstein Company as distributor to Lionsgate, noting the irony of the ways the story speaks to Hollywood’s own dismissal of people often overlooked.] The film opens with a note about the film being based on a true story; the death of Lambert’s daughter and this new Native American woman show a disturbing pattern.
Wind River allows Renner to show some complexity that some of his other non-Hawkeye roles haven’t allowed for. He and Olsen play off each other in a way that allows us to see how scared both of them are, and how anger evolves from the way they experience discrimination from those on the reservation and others. Instead of allowing that dismissal to wear them down, they instead push forward because they know the dead woman deserve to be represented, that someone has to speak for them. In this way, the film proves to be more powerful than a simple whodunit; it’s a reminder that we’re called to care for those who others ignore.
Special features include deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes video gallery.