A tense murder mystery set against a backdrop of a bleak frozen tundra is unsurprisingly an uncomfortable watch, but writer turned director Taylor Sheridan provides a suspenseful script that ties the threads together in a compelling way.
Over the past few years a pair of standout films have both been penned by the same screenwriter, “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” (both which I recommend highly.) Here Sheridan is given full reign, taking on a dual role as writer and director, in a tale about grief, loss and revenge.
On a script level, “Wind River” is solid and displays Sheridan’s immense talent. The central murder is introduced early, and pulls our protagonists in interesting directions. Jeremy Renner brings humanity to the role of Cory Lambert, a hunter who takes on the investigation due to a vested personal interest. Elizabeth Olsen plays rookie FBI agent Jane Banner, with great chemistry alongside Renner, proving the two can stretch to far more dramatic heights than their characters in the Marvel Avengers films allow.
The story progresses slowly and methodically, akin to the process of hunting and stalking your prey. The film builds a mood of frustration and desperation perfectly, which is beautifully sound-tracked by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave (from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame.)
The Wyoming mountainous backdrop is as much a central part of the film as anything else, and the whole story is about how people adapt to their surroundings and circumstances. It’s a story of mental and physical survival.
At some points the tale can become relentlessly bleak, an undoubtedly intentional move, though perhaps a few moments to alleviate the stress wouldn’t go amiss. Either way, the film digs itself in and keeps you hooked all the way to its dramatic conclusion. Perhaps a little obvious and a bit too neat, but on the whole “Wind River” is an experience you aren’t likely to forget, and thankfully I mean that in a positive sense.