Release: 22nd January 2017
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Elizabeth Olsen stars as a rookie FBI agent tasked with solving the brutal murder of a young woman in a Native American reserve. Enlisting the help of a local hunter (Jeremy Renner) to help her navigate the freezing wilderness, the two set about trying to find a vicious killer hidden in plain sight. The closer they get to the truth the greater the danger becomes with a town full of explosive secrets ready to fight back.
Taylor Sheridan is having quite a time right now. From the brutal debut of Sicario to Oscar nominated Hell or High Water; as a writer, Sheridan is carving a niche for himself as a modern day John Milius. His latest picture, and first time out of the gate as professional director, is the self penned Wind River; a snow swept murder mystery set in America’s poorest Indian reservation.
As far as crime noir goes, Wind River delivers very little outside of current trends. It is a grizzly window in to a dark, deceitful and melancholy world, that exists in a vast blanket of snowy wilderness rather than dark corners of urban grey. But other than a bright landscape of white, the film does have a unique voice. This comes not in Sheridan’s choice of subject (the indigenous peoples of America are by far the most underserved nation on US soil) but the fact that he seems to share an affinity for the American west. Sheridan’s makes Wind River as American as apple pie. This is John Ford’s America 140 years after Ethan Edwards walked away from the Edwards homestead. This is a world divided by deep rooted racial tension, animosity and mistrust. Wind River is every part a classical Hollywood western distilled in to a crime drama.
Grief provides a strong theme throughout Wind River; how does it affect others? What are its implications? This is not just a story about the death of one girl, it is a direct mirror for Jeremy Renner’s own loss, a bone of contention for everyone who lives in the reservation and a measuring stick by which Elizabeth Olsen can mark justice from prejudice. The central mystery, however, is not necessarily a gripping one, so Wind River fails to build tension the way films such as Sicario did. Sheridan throws some empty promises our way, and tries to neatly tie things up in an unsatisfactory yet touching final act. The more frustrating element is also the use of Renner as emerging central character and Olsen as over bearing Clarice Starling wannabe. Herein lies a wasted opportunity to use an outstanding actress to the best of her talents. Yet, it is a wholefully fulfiling and well crafted way to spend an hour and forty minutes.
Film Grade: C+
Two so-so Deleted Scenes and three EPKs. (tut)
Special Features Grade: D+
Not the terse thriller you’d hope for, but yet another string in Sheridan’s bow. Where all the special features at, though?