Inspired by actual events, “Wind River” is riveting. The action is fast and surprising. The character connections are made early, and the message of loss and life’s cheapness hang heavy in the Wyoming chill.
This is is more than a revenge film. Director Taylor Sheridan uses a poem written and recited by one of the murder victims to give a lesson on controlling grief. He uses the film to highlight a horrendous flaw in our system of equal justice for all: no statistics are reported for missing Native American women in this country. This is not a preachy film. Morality here is deeply flawed; and, Sheridan keeps the realism of the story’s events believable and our hero understandable. Like Sheridan’s earlier films, ” Sicario” ( reviewed glowingly Oct.4th, 2015 ) and “Hell or High Water” ( reviewed August 19th, 2016 ), all Sheridan’s work whether writing, directing or both is ruminative and suspencefully chilling.
One of the ways this is done in “Wind River” is through the characters of Cory Lambert ( Jeremy Renner ) and the seasoned law enforcement officer Ben ( Graham Greene). The veteran fish and wildlife manager and the sixtyish law enforcement chief do their jobs with practicality and know-how.
Gil Birmingham is wonderful as the Native American friend, who has lost his daughter to homicide, too. Elizabeth Olsen as rookie FBI operative Jane Banner is professional, willing to learn, smart , passionate, and thank you, screen writers, does not have a sexual relationship with our wildlife officer. He sees her as a daughter-figure and this adds to the intensity of his loss. The poetic lines: ” Taking solace in the perfection of knowing you and guarding every memory”, herald the film’s tone.
Cory’s (Renner’s) ex- wife Wilma and his eight-year-old son, Casey, and his grandpa add a layer of cultural awareness in the respect for nature and familiar ties. I loved the line when Casey successfully took his horse through his paces:” That was Arapaho not cowboy.” , his father tells him with a twinkle in his eye.
The cinematography with its blue-white snowy terrain, green-black pines and prayful birches harken blizzards that come in cold waves. We understand twenty-below at night will burst lungs, and give stage four frostbite. Wyoming is stone cold. Film-goers will feel it. As Jane learns there are six officers for a territory as large as Rhode Island. ” Ben recites: “This is the land of ~ you are on your own.”
Sex, drugs, and violence are on screen, as are sled mobiles going eighty-miles-an-hour around trees. When the trees are too thick for snow mobiles, our trackers snow shoe through human carrion picked clean.
Fast camera spins are thrilling. Ben Richardson’s cinematography stellar. Silence and snow named as the two things not taken away from Wyoming’s Native People.