Wind River (2017) – Review

Director: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, Althea Sam, Kelsey Asbille

The Overview
A veteran tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service helps to investigate the murder of a young Native American woman, and uses the case as a means of seeking redemption for an earlier act of irresponsibility which ended in tragedy. (Source: IMDb)

The Good
It’s rare that an under-the-radar movie would be subject to as much scrutiny as Wind River, but when it is helmed by Taylor Sheridan, it is a slightly different story. He might not be a household name just yet, but after his scripts for Sicario (2015) and Hell or High Water (2016) garnered a significant amount of awards attention, he certainly became one to watch. 

Now with Wind River, which reportedly forms part of a somewhat unofficial ‘American Frontiers’ trilogy from Sheridan following his aforementioned scripted efforts, the question is can he direct as well as he can write? The answer is a resounding yes, and then some.

With a script also penned by Sheridan, Wind River is an assured film and a legitimate awards contender if it isn’t too presumptuous to say that this early in the year. As his previous efforts have demonstrated, Sheridan just knows how to work the dialogue so effortlessly; it is precise and purposeful, thoughtful and thought-provoking in equal measure, and the directing also follows in this vein. The gorgeous cinematography of Ben Richardson (The Fault in Our Stars, Beasts of the Southern Wild) brings a richness and depth to the stark imagery and it is frequently beautiful to look at.

Wind River is a hard one to categorize; it is sort of a revenge thriller, but when paired with a deliberately melancholic script and the steady direction, the result is something which effortlessly utilizes its natural slow-burn approach to build tension, before its deliberately dramatic release. It is quite simply breath-taking! 

The story is a very deliberate reflection of the environment in which it is set; at times beautiful and at others bleak and uncompromising, and the strong characters really help to alleviate it. Having proved he has a career beyond playing Hawkeye in the MCU, Jeremy Renner gives a career-best performance, and as his performance in Arrival also demonstrated, he’s an incredibly underrated actor. Also fresh from the MCU, Elizabeth Olsen also gives a great performance, and her and Renner have a natural and believable rapport that helps to make the central relationship really work.

Not often a thing which jumps out to most, but the sound design of Wind River is truly exceptional. The deliberate stillness is punctuated with blasts of brutality, resulting in something which is truly special, and stays with you for a long time afterwards.

The Bad
Nothing to report here! This film is truly exceptional, and if anyone wanted proof that Taylor Sheridan is one of the most exciting names in film at the moment, Wind River is your evidence. 

The Verdict
I saw this movie and you should too. 
It is difficult to go into a film blind in this over-saturated world we live in, but going into Wind River blind is to be advised; I somehow managed to avoid trailers and simply went in with only my high expectations based on Sheridan’s previous work. I left feeling blown away by its simplicity, its quiet and mesmerizing story which explodes exactly when it needs to, leaving you utterly breathless. I can see this going the same way as Sicario and Hell or High Water; both risked falling off a lot of people’s radars, but both ended up making waves in awards season, and there’d be no justice in the world if Wind River didn’t do the same. An exceptional film from a truly great writing/directing talent, this is definitely one to watch!  

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