★★★1/2 out of ★★★★
Wind River begins with a bloody, half naked Native American woman running through the snow until she collapses and dies, suffocating in her own blood. There is no coming back from the confusing and deeply upsetting image set across the beautiful and desolate Wyoming Indian landscape.
It’s not long before her body is found by Cory (Jeremy Renner), a professional animal tracker still grieving the death of his own daughter. In fact, the two girls were friends, making this tragedy even tougher to bear.
On the case are a young Las Vegas FBI agent, Jane (Elizabeth Olsen), and Native police officer Ben (Graham Greene). Resources are limited so they bring on Cory, whose expertise in tracking helps them in their investigation. The three work well together as they inch closer to solving the murder. But the closer they get to finding out the truth, the closer they are to danger, because Wind River isn’t all that it appears to be.
Wind River doesn’t really do anything different from other gritty crime thrillers. And that’s totally okay because this movie gets everything right.
The acting from Renner, Olsen, and Greene is superb, the cinematography is beautiful and the atmosphere is intense. Even the talking head scenes are engrossing thanks to solid dialogue, believable acting and the anything-can-happen atmosphere.
It’s like a warped Robert Frost poem come to life. Everything is so bleak from the terrain to the characters that all seem to be on the verge of giving up. Cory explains that you never get over the hurt of losing your child, but somehow you deal with the pain. All the while, he can barely keep it together as he stares at pictures of his little girl.
Jane is determined but at times about to collapse because of the weight of this tragedy. Even some of the minor characters from the Indian reservation have given up.
Wind River doesn’t cram their message down our throats but it shows us the socioeconomic impact of living on a reservation where substance abuse and crime is often rampant.
The film ends on a note intended to provoke thought and hopefully change. “While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women.”
The Good: Beautifully shot, directed and acted. It’s gripping right from the get-go.
The Bad: Possibly too redundant and insufferable for some viewers.
Final Word: One of my favorite movies of the year, Wind River is a must-see. For a film that only has a few major scenes of action, it has the feel of an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat thriller.
Starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Jon Bernthal. Directed by Taylor Sheridan.
Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language