Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a local game tracker who stumbles upon the body of a murdered teenage girl, frozen in the desolate wilderness of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Still trying to come to terms with the death of his own teenage daughter, Cory is forced to confront his past. When rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is assigned to the case, she enlists Cory's help to navigate the unfamiliar terrain and unforgiving conditions as the two venture deep into a world ravaged by violence and the elements.
Review by Louise Keller:
Taylor Sheridan's greatest skill as a screenwriter and now director is to create a tangible sense of place and immerse us into its reality along with his skillfully crafted characters. In other words, he can spin a good tale.
We could hardly breathe in the tense Mexican borderland drug war of Sicario (2015) and understood the pulse of the lazy small town Texan backdrop in Hell or High Water (2016), arguably his best film. Now in Wind River, the third and final film in Sheridan's American Frontier trilogy, we can taste the bitter chill of 'the snow and the silence' in the desolate freezing wilderness of Wyoming.
The winter white setting is as pretty as a postcard but the underlying desperation with which Sheridan paints a rich and textured tale of survival onto his canvass is undeniable. Wind River is about the primal nature of man in the wilderness. There are guns and violence within its murder mystery genre, but essentially this film relies on character and setting to deliver its grit and soulful aftertaste.
The film begins in the dead of night when a Native American girl with long black hair runs barefoot through the thick snow. Jeremy Renner's local hunter Cory Lambert discovers her dead body some time later, while shooting a wolf to protect local livestock. This is one of Renner's best roles to date and he perfectly embodies a man carrying the burden of grief on his shoulders - from his own personal loss.
We identify with Elizabeth Olsen's FBI agent Jane Banner, a stranger to the area, who relies on Cory to help her understand how things work in Wind River. When she asks for back up, she is told 'this is the land of you're on your own'. It is American Indian territory and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' moody music and piercing soundscape reinforce the icy chill that begins with the climate and shifts into the relationships. Gil Birmingham, so effective in Hell or Highwater as Jeff Bridges' Mexican ranger sidekick is superb as the dead girl's grieving father: his quiet demeanour is far more powerful than words. The scenes between Renner and Birmingham are among the film's best.
The characters are edgy, the entire cast is excellent and the inexplicable Mexican standoff when guns are drawn and everything goes crazy could only be put down to the insanity of the moment in the remote wilderness where winter never leaves. Murky dialogue aside, I loved being kidnapped into this harsh raw environment and reaping its many rewards.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In a wild Wyoming winterland, a teenage girl is found frozen in the snow. Whodunnit begins. But Taylor Sheridan is not in the habit of making old fashioned whodunnits, he is the business of edgy murder stories set in the still wild frontiers of America's vast middle.
The themes of this story include cultures, family, retribution and the essentials of survival in the wilderness, even if that is within a helicopter ride of urban life.
With its intriguing opening, the film draws us into its mystery with a deft hand. Sheridan holds back the revelation of the crime well into the second half of the film, which adds to the tension and interest.
But it's as much about the characters who populate Wind River - and indeed, the film - as about the murder. The latter is a consequence of the former, or rather of the actions of the characters.
Jeremy Renner is excellent as Cory Lambert, the official game tracker - the hunter - who we meet while he is shooting a wolf to protect a flock of lambs. Later we see the symbolism of this scene, how it is the film's central metaphor.
Graham Greene and Gil Birmingham provide fantastic support as Ben the top cop on the reservation and Martin the grieving father, on the other.
Elizabeth Olsen as Jane Banner, a rookie from the FBI, has a challenging role as the young and untested female cop in a world of men and the unforgiving environment, but she comes through with flying colours.
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have crafted a sublime score, carrying the story with sensitive power.
Taylor Sheridan has stated that this is third and final film in his "thematic trilogy that explores the modern American frontier," in which Sicario was set in the epidemic of violence along the US/Mexico border, Hell or High Water in West Texas where wealth and poverty collide.
And out here in the wilds of Wyoming, they don't do back up, as Ben tells the nervous FBI agent Jane, 'we do survival'.
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WIND RIVER (MA15+)
CAST: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Bernthal, Martin Sensmeier, Julia Jones, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, Ian Bohen, Kelsey Asbille, Matthew Del Negro, Hugh Dillon, Eric Lange, Tantoo Cardinal, James Jordan
PRODUCER: Elizabeth A. Bell, Peter Berg, Matthew George, Basil Iwanyk, Wayne Rogers
DIRECTOR: Taylor Sheridan
SCRIPT: Taylor Sheridan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Richardson
EDITOR: Gary Roach
MUSIC: Warren Ellis
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Neil Spisak
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 10, 2017 (sneaks week prior)