DIRECTOR: Taylor Sheridan
WRITER: Taylor Sheridan
Matthew Del Negro
When a Native American woman is found murdered in the remote, snowy wilderness on a Native American Reservation. A veteran tracker who works for Fish and Wildlife Services with ties to the reservation and a young, female FBI Agent must team up to uncover why this young woman was murdered. As they delve deeper into the mystery of her murder, they will discover a much darker crime that is linked to an oil rig that is situated on the reservation.
I will be the first to admit that for the last four and a half months, I, myself, slept on Wind River. I just didn't jump at that chance to go and see this movie in the cinema. Being an obsessive fan of crime thrillers, I spend a vast majority of my time, looking and browsing online streaming services to find documentaries on real-life serial killers and murders. So to sit on Wind River for so long and not watch it sooner, it really was a mistake on my part as its everything I love about crime, murders, and mysteries.
As I sat and began watching Wind River, my first immediate feeling was that this film felt very similar in tone and look to shows like The Killing, The Bridge, and Those Who Kill. It has that Nordic Noir sort of feel to it; only this is set in the US. The harsh, cold, and barren landscapes are just as important as the people that reside in them. I was immediately hooked as all of those shows were series that captivated me. I felt right at home with Wind River.
The movie opens with a shot of a young woman running through the snow. It's in the dead of night, we see her scared for her life, and we get the title card. It doesn't take long in delivering it's first chilling moment. From this moment on, Wind River is a slow burn. The murder mystery slowly unravels and builds towards its thrillingly dark third act. The movie is peppered with intense moments, but I thought that for a film that takes it's time in revealing it's twists and turns. It's paced perfectly. I never once felt bored by its approach.
What Taylor Sheridan does right with Wind River is that he makes this all about these characters. This is driven by these people. I think he shines just as much light on the supporting characters as he does our two leads. For a movie, that deals with a lot of tragedy, pain, and grief. I thought this was still a very human story. Every single one of these characters is broken, but they always try and make the best with what they have in this unforgiving landscape. It makes the characters we care for very relatable and the ones who are unlikeable, we want to see justice come to them.
The murder mystery itself is a genuinely sombre one. I loved the conflict of a white, female, FBI agent coming onto a Native American reservation and being in over her head. I've seen many people claim that this has a 'white man is the saviour' complex to it but thought the Native American characters were just as important, if not more so to the story. I also loved that they drove home the point that our murder victim was a tough Native American woman and showed how weak her killer was, come to the end of the film.
When it comes to the suspense, the movie really kicks into gear in the third act. We have a few intense set-pieces during the movie, but it's the final shootout where the movie amasses a pretty significant death toll. There is a scene that involves a chase through a crack house while being half blinded by pepper spray that was somewhat nerve-shredding. I think the highlight is Jeremy Renner grabbing his high-powered sniper rifle and laying waste to a group of men.
Visually, I thought the Wind River looked beautiful. There is just something so creepy about blood on snow. The harsh white landscapes as bright red blood splatters across it make for some very morbid and beautiful cinematography and imagery. As does the dead, lifeless corpses that have been drenched in snow. This being Taylor Sheridan's directional debut and if this is anything to go off, we will be seeing a lot more from him. He is a very talented writer and director.
Now, we come to the problems that I had with Wind River. There isn't that many, and they aren't that much of a distraction where it kills the vibe of the overall movie. This still has so much to love about it. The movie contains a subplot about Jeremy Renner and his character's past. While we eventually find out what happened to his teenage daughter. I would have loved for us to get more on that relationship. We see that he is broken and his bond has soured with his ex-wife. I think had they built on that; it would have fleshed out the subplot a bit more.
Lastly, we come to the performances. I think Jeremy Renner delivers one of the finest performances of his career to date. He is playing a tough as nails and tortured father of a teenage daughter who passed away. I thought he was fantastic. Elizabeth Olsen is also excellent in her role as our female FBI agent. I believe that both Elisabeth and Jeremy had solid chemistry. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the underrated Jon Bernthal in a supporting role. His performance is pretty devastating.
DEATH TOLL: 13
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A wolf is shot dead.
- The dead body of a woman is found in the snow.
- A man is repeatedly beaten by a group of men.
- A woman is seen cutting herself.
- Two people are sprayed in the face with pepper spray.
- A woman is beaten and raped.
- A man chokes to death on his own blood while running through the snow.
- A naked and carved up body is found in the snow.
- A group of police officers and oil riggers have a bloody shootout.
- A man is repeatedly shot in the chest and face.
Wind River is a slow burn thriller. The film is gorgeously shot by first-time filmmaker Taylor Sheridan. Jeremy Renner has delivered the best performance of his career so far, and Elisabeth Olsen is also excellent as our FBI Agent. With heavy themes of race, rape, and loss are profoundly felt in the movie. Some intense moments add some chill factor to all of the proceedings. While one of the major backstory subplots doesn't get enough light shined on it, this is still one of the best murder mysteries of the year.