#REVIEW: “WIND RIVER”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Inspired by actual events, Writer/Director Taylor Sheridan brings us Wind River, the story of Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) and Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) trying to solve the murder of a girl on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. From vast open spaces to claustrophobic trailers Wind River’s tone is perhaps best captured in the Movie’s opening minutes when a girl is seen running barefoot through snow covered fields fleeing a menace the audience can’t see but knows is very real.
While hunting wolves, Lambert comes across the body of a dead girl he identifies as Natalie, his deceased daughter’s best friend. The sheriff (played by Canadian Graham Greene) promptly calls in the FBI to investigate for reasons not fully explained in the movie. Upon arriving Agent Banner realizes she is well out of her depth and requests that Lambert accompany her during her investigation which he agrees to in hopes Natalie’s murder is connected to that of his daughter.
The two Avengers have awkward chemistry, but snowsuits and windchill don’t make for great date nights so Renner’s grieving father is left mostly to brood by himself while Olsen tries to assert herself as the lead investigator. Olsen does a great job portraying Banner as a fish out of water and if her character’s motivations aren’t always clear her end goal of finding justice for Natalie is.
Despite good intentions, from her first attempts at interviewing suspects on the reservation, Banner is proven weak and ineffective. Other than proximity to the reservation it is unclear why she would have been tasked with the case. This isn’t entirely surprising as none of Sheridan’s female characters are fully developed. Lambert, his ex-father-in-law Dan (Apesanahkwat), even his best friend Martin (Gil Birmingham) are given rich histories and motivations but the women in their lives are little more than sketches who appear for only brief moments on screen.
I often mention cinematography but the beautiful, snow-covered landscapes makes for an impressive backdrop. Microclimates are used to explain why some scenes were shot in the midst of snowstorms while others appear to be in early spring so if Agent Banner appears to be ill-prepared one almost can’t blame her.
Many people have written about the questionable nature of having two white protagonists solve a murder on a First Nations reservation. The Movie addresses the issue briefly when a suspect points out Lambert has no claim at Wind River and isn’t really one of them, “The only thing native about you is your ex-wife.” It is unsurprising that despite casting First Nations actors in many roles, they are still portrayed as victims and secondary characters in their own story.
Sheridan’s exploration of the many injustices visited upon those who live on reservations is subtler than his take on the catharsis of grief but no less impactful. Oscar-nominated for his script of last year’s Hell or High Water, Sheridan has received high praise for his sophomore turn behind the camera. A solid mystery with a high stakes climax, Wind River is certain to appeal to audiences this weekend.
VVS Films release WIND RIVER Friday, August 11, 2017.