Review: Wind River

Wind River
9 10
WIND RIVER was previously reviewed as part of JoBlo.com's Sundance Film Festival coverage.

PLOT: A U.S Fish & Wildlife agent (Jeremy Renner) living on an Indian Reservation is recruited by an inexperienced FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) to help her solve a young woman’s murder.

REVIEW: By now, we all know that Taylor Sheridan can write one hell of a script. SICARIO & HELL OR HIGH WATER were both distinctive, but they also benefited from two amazing directors, Denis Villeneuve and David MacKenzie. This time, Sheridan takes over directing duties himself, but as far as first films go it’s one hell of a strong debut and WIND RIVER, which comes with high expectations, does not disappoint.

Like SICARIO, which tackled the drug war, and HELL OR HIGH WATER, which tackled the financial crisis, WIND RIVER concerns itself with another controversial subject, specifically the modern plight of Native Americans living on reservations. Jeremy Renner plays a white tracker with a Native American ex-wife and child, who maintains close ties to the community. When the eighteen year-old daughter of his best friend is murdered, he takes his recruitment by Olsen’s rookie agent as an opportunity to avenge his friends - with us learning early on that his own family has been irreparably scarred by violence.

Similar to the other movies made from Sheridan's work, WIND RIVER delivers its message but also functions as a rock-solid action thriller, with Renner getting his best role to date as the avenging tracker. Having made his home on the reservation, a place were other non-natives rotate in and out for big fees working for the oil industry, he identifies deeply with his friends, even if his race ultimately makes him something of an outsider.

It’s really Renner’s show, with us rarely leaving his side as the investigation goes on. Beautifully shot in the snowy landscape, it’s a moody piece and Sheridan shows a lot of skill in the way he has the mystery unveil itself, leading to an action-packed climax that dominates the last act. Renner hasn’t been this dynamic since THE HURT LOCKER, and Sheridan does the same thing for him that Mackenzie did for Ben Foster and Chris Pine in HELL OR HIGH WATER.

By contrast, Elizabeth Olsen’s role is more peripheral, but she’s good as the rookie trying to do her best to solve the murder, and railing against the lack of resources she’s provided by the feds, which includes sending someone so inexperienced to the reservation. In a lesser film, her and Renner would have bickered, with sparks inevitably flying, but Sheridan avoids this. There’s no romantic interest between the two, and they never bicker - both respect each other right away. As the movie goes on, Olsen comes into her own in a more optimistic way that Emily Blunt did in SICARIO, with this whole film, on the whole, having a more upbeat slant than his other films, despite the grim premise.

Sheridan’s also pulled in a good supporting cast of character actors, with the great Graham Greene as the head cop, Gil Birmingham as the father of the murdered girl, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’s Martin Sensmeier as his wayward son, and an amazing cameo by Jon Bernthal, his second small scene-stealing turn in a Sheridan outing after SICARIO. Sheridan also benefits from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis contributing a terrific score.

Given how solid an action-thriller it is, WIND RIVER may well prove to be a word-of-mouth sleeper the same way Sheridan’s other films have been. It certainly deserves to break out. It’s accessible, action-packed and smart, and Sheridan’s now in the enviable position of being three-for-three.

Source: JoBlo.com



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