‘Wind River” is a breath of fresh autumn air after a summer full of hot garbage fumes from movies like “Transformers” or “The Dark Tower.”
There are three daily showtimes remaining at Riverside Cinema as you read this. It is highly recommended you catch it while you can, as it is worthy of the very short list of must-see films this year.
Jeremy Renner stars as Cory Lambert, a Wyoming Fish and Wildlife agent who finds the dead body of a Native American girl in the forests of the Wind River Indian Reservation. As the only law enforcement agency able to operate on tribal lands is the FBI, unprepared and unequipped federal agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is dispatched to evaluate the victim, and recruits Lambert as a tracker when it appears obvious the woman was murdered.
This is some of Renner’s best work, as he portrays Lambert with a thoughtful reservation — an expert tracker who, aside from a tragic family history, is a goodhearted and devoted individual. Renner has taken a lot of expertly written dialogue fit for a hero in a grade-A Western and delivered it with heart and believability, never crossing the line into melodramatic territory.
Elizabeth Olsen is absolutely worth a nod as well, even if Renner’s character hefts most of the movie’s emotional weight. Olsen isn’t playing the cookie-cutter cliché of the all-knowing and authoritative FBI agent. Instead, Jane Banner shows up during a snowstorm making it very clear she is out of her league, shipped to the freezing weather of Wyoming from the more than balmy temperatures of Las Vegas. When it becomes clear that backup won’t be arriving on the escalating case, Banner takes charge with relentlessness and nerve into a deadly den of drug addicts and, eventually, the scene of the original crime with Lambert’s help.
Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, scribe of the screenplays for “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” (both which are fantastic), “Wind River” could very well be considered part of a thriller trilogy, as three-in-a-row wins for Sheridan. In both direction and writing, he is masterful at slowly tightening the strings of nerve-rattling tension.
The portrayal of the Wind River Indian Reservation could be the third most obvious star of the movie, as the locations used shot to exhibit the vastness and wild, untamed nature of the forests and mountains, while the backstory and portrayed life of the reservation is all too unfortunate and real.
The murder is shrouded in so much mystery and grimness that it is enough of a hook itself, but the film never delves into the excessively twisted or freakish kind of murder portrayed in some murder mystery thrillers like “Seven” or “The Bone Collector.” The exact cause and motivation of the murder are kept a relative mystery, and the individual in the movie is treated as a tragically young victim undeserving of her fate, rather than used as a horrific spectacle to shock the audience. This only makes the story hit closer to being possibly far too real, with even the violent and shocking finale being so deadly, split-second and viciously chaotic that it could be something you read about in your national news tomorrow.
And the finale alone is worth the price of admission. It will not only force you to the seat’s edge, but may have you eventually give a pump of your fist as the line between realism and a Western is blurred just the tiniest bit.
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“Wind River” is currently playing at the Riverside Cinemas, 1017 S. Boone St. in Aberdeen.
George Haerle holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing for media and lives in Cosmopolis.