Warmth is tough to come by in Wind River. The bleak setting is an Indian reservation in the mountains of Wyoming, where spring brings only more snow. Its inhabitants are hardened against a country that’s forgotten them. Local animal tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) has withdrawn after a personal tragedy. The violent death of a young woman puts a crack in this frozen community – a crack that just keeps spreading. Flown in to solve the crime is Jane (Elizabeth Olsen), a Las Vegas FBI agent so out of place it’s a wonder she doesn’t steam when she hits the snow.
The directing debut of Taylor Sheridan, writer of the excellent Sicario and Hell Or High Water, Wind River is ostensibly a murder mystery, but it’s not really told like one. As with his two previous films as screenwriter, Sheridan messes around with structure, sharing information sparingly. Details that most films would give us immediately, he gives us an hour in. For a long time we know almost nothing of the rape victim found dead in the snow, even though Cory clearly knows a great deal about her. Sounds frustrating, but it isn’t.
The meat of Sheridan’s scripts is always in the parts between clues being solved. He wants to delve into ideas on the difference between doing the right thing and the necessary thing, and a nation that’s evolving at different speeds for different people. His dialogue is beautiful and precise; sometimes it sounds unnaturally practised, but it’s always intelligent and finely honed.
For such a thinky kind of thriller, a little more thought might have gone into Jane who is comparatively short-changed as a character. Initially a determined rookie, she devolves into victim, her naïve decisions repeatedly requiring Cory to swoop in on his Ski-Doo and rescue her. Sheridan is a better writer than director, letting a few too many of his scenes stop dead to luxuriate in monologues, but he shows tons of potential. This is a debut to be proud of.
- Release Date: September 8, 2017
- Director: Taylor Sheridan