Wind River is a 2017 neo-western movie that was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. It wasn’t a major release at the time, but it was successful in its bracket. It was something of a sleeper, which is a shame as it is very, very good. I have been trying to turn people on to Sheridan’s movies for a few years now.
Sheridan is the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water. Those two films, in my opinion, cement him as a top-notch modern thriller writer. When Wind River came out I was already hyped. Sheridan’s films are always violent, with real-world action and realistic feeling scenarios. To me, it also helps that his knowledge of firearms is spot on, giving his films verisimilitude.
The film takes place in Wyoming on a Native American reservation. Jeremy Renner is a state fish and wildlife officer. He is out hunting down the local varmints that are preying on farmer’s livestock when he finds the body of a dead Indian girl. It turns out that he knew the girl and her family. It becomes clear she was beaten and raped, and then died from the below-freezing temperature while trying to escape whoever did it.
Needing help, the local reservation police call in the Feds and the FBI sends in a local agent, played by Elizabeth Olsen. As the girl died from exposure, the local medical examiner won’t rule the cause of death as murder.
This causes a problem. Without a homicide the FBI can’t, or won’t, send more people to support law enforcement on the reservation, leading Olsen to recruit Renner to help her try and build the case.
As the two investigate the girl’s death, things begin to unfold and bodies pile up. The mystery is revealed as it builds towards a climax that revolves around a very vast and very brutal firefight.
It is a great detective thriller peppered with some damn good action scenes. Sheridan made the film to help call attention to the insane amount of Native American women that are beaten, raped, go missing, or are killed every year. I think he did a good job. It’s not over the top, crusading or preachy. It’s a real problem and the film uses that as the heart of its story.
It’s a great movie with Renner and Olsen doing some real acting. They team up well in the film, building on their work together in the previous Avengers movies.
The film is a modern classic, and both a western and a thriller. I give it my highest recommendation. Next time we will talk about Hell or High Water which is a perfect companion piece to Wind River.
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