Director: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, Graham Green
Runtime: 1 hr 48 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Violence)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 23 November 2017
Synopsis: From producers Basil Iwanyk (“Sicario,” “The Town”), Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor,” “Battleship”), and Matthew George (“LBJ”) comes the gripping thriller WIND RIVER. WIND RIVER is a chilling thriller that follows a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams up with a local game tracker with deep community ties and a haunted past (Jeremy Renner) to investigate the murder of a local girl on a remote Native American Reservation in the hopes of solving the her mysterious death. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, WIND RIVER also stars Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbille, and James Jordan.
“How do you gauge someone’s will to live?” asks Cory, a cowboy hunter living in a mythical version of an American West that no longer exists. In fact, we don’t even know if this place full of “snow and silence” with no real rules, called Wind River ever did exist in the American West.
Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (the scriptwriter for Hell or High Water and Sicario), Wind River demonstrates that Sheridan is more than just a good scribe. A well-paced and tense thriller, Wind River will keep you on captivated as you enter the world that are equal parts beautiful and brutal.
Wind River is heavy with symbolism right off from the start. When we first meet Cory (portrayed by Jeremy Renner), he is lying on his stomach in the snow, shooting wolves that have been preying on his sheep, being more protector and predator. On one of his hunting trips, he comes across the frozen corpse of a young woman (who we would have seen at the beginning of the film) who he recognises as the teenage daughter of his best friend, who similarly died under mysterious conditions. In comes newbie FBI agent, Jane Banner (portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen). Her rookieness is established from the outset when she enters the area so ill prepared that she needs to borrow snow gear from the closet of Cory’s late daughter, further fuelling the sense of grief handing over.
As Cory works with Jane to unravel the mystery of what happened to Natalie, he is forced to confront what happened to his own daughter. Sheridan handles the relationship between Jane and Cory deftly: They’re equals, but they also need and learn from each other.Thankfully, Sheridan doesn’t throw them together in a needless and awkward romance (just because every single film seems to see the need to do so for their protagonists who are co-dependent).
Renner is in good form here as the sensitive, protective Cory (which helps you forget that he was the Avenger with no real super power). He gives his most subtle and riveting performance in years. As a hunter, Cory is very much attuned to the terrain’s hostility which is etched more clearly in his heart due to a terrible event in his past and resolving the case of the frozen young woman becomes his way of mending his own hurt heart. Olsen does a creditable job too as a new officer, who though out of her comfort zone, keeps her cool even as things swirl around her in what must be an overwhelming manner to a rookie much akin to her being caught in the middle of a tornado.
However, Sheridan’s direction is not perfect. At times, the characters articulate too clearly what they’re thinking and feeling, most often in the exchanges between Cory and Martin, Natalie’s grieving father. Rather ironic given that they are supposed to be stoic men living in harsh snowy conditions. However, the words articulated are so heartfelt and have such deep truth, it is almost forgivable for those otherwise unnecessary exchanges. However, Sheridan’s film is just as, if not more, powerful during the quiet moments where the characters’ silence speaks volume.
Cinematographer Ben Richardson, helps create the rich visuals that allow Sheridan to show the harshness and indifference of this beautiful vast landscape towards everyone who walk through it. The pristine white snow is interrupted only by a snowmobile cutting through it to create a solitary path and you can hear the crunch of the snow as you imagine the bitter chill cutting you to the bone.
The one big flaw of the film though is how it spends a lot more time featuring white people when its closing title card marks it as a film concerned with the colonial injustice suffered by Native Americans. Rather than a film addressing political issues, Wind River would be more rightfully placed as a film addressing existential issues.
(Wind River is deeply captivating and well-paced, leaving you pondering about existential issues without being overly philosophical - also, you get to move past seeing Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye)
Review by Katrina Tee