I had expectations going into Wind River. I had only seen the trailer once and could barely remember the plot summary. I also knew that the writer/director Taylor Sheridan had also written both Hell Or High Water and Sicario, but he had only directed one other film before this. So let's call these expectations ‘cautiously optimistic’.
I think Taylor Sheridan is a genius. Not only did he knock the writing out of the park, three for three now, but it seems like he learned a lot from the directors of his other films. He masterfully weaves mystery, drama and suspense (box quote!) and all the actors give amazing performances.
The plot centers around a Native American girl who goes missing in the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, her body eventually being found by Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), the local Wildlife Service tracker. Together with FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), they scour the snowy landscape in search of clues to solve the murder!
And that's about as much pep as you could possibly put into this movie, because it is one of the saddest and darkest movies this year, and there have been a lot of those. There are maybe only a handful or less scenes that have any kind of levity or happiness to them. That's not to say that the whole movie is a depressing waste, far from it, however it is more of a slow and thoughtful film. A lot of bad things happen to both good and bad people.
This film not only has a lot to say about Native American life in this country, but also about how luck or the lack of it plays a part in people's lives. Renner’s character talks to the dead girl's brother about luck, the brother saying that all of his and his people's struggles are just because they're unlucky, whereas Renner suggests that they are just letting the world win, and not fighting back at all. There are many points throughout this film that deal with this subject, and how much the Native American people have suffered. They show a couple of statistics at the end of the film dealing with missing persons, and there are zero stats for missing Native women.
I also want to briefly touch on structure. This film is very well paced and only clocks in at an hour forty five, and yet is packed with a good amount of story. Though, and this isn't necessarily a gripe but is interesting to note, that right at the point where you expect to be on the cusp of act 3, it rockets full speed into the climax in a way you don't see coming. It's a great way to end, however I can see how it might put some people off given how sudden everything is.
Honestly, there is very little holding this film back from being perfect in my book. I'm just simply amazed at how the director was able to get everything to work so well. Like I said before, Taylor Sheridan is a damn genius. He's only directed one other film, a poorly received horror flick from 2011 called Vile, and his only other credits are for acting, and then, well I'll let his writing speak for itself. I can't wait to see what he does next.
I've also been asked if I want to put a rating in these reviews. I wanna preface that this is my opinion, please don't take mine or any other numbered reviews as truth. Having a number helps rank it against other movies that I've seen and might not correlate to you. With that boring but informative shit out of the way, without further ado, I would rate Wind River nine Stulls out of ten.