Film Review: Wind River

Cruel by law, and also by nature.

BY John Blackburn.

The Wind River Indian Reservation is the seventh largest in America. It’s a harsh environment in terms of the treatment of Native Americans- cruel by the law, and also by nature. Hell or High Water and Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan learnt from the leaders of a native tribe that only an official officer or FBI agent could arrest anyone criminally mistreating Indian people on their own land. Because of this, there are many cases where Native American women have been murdered, and their cases remain unsolved. This is the harsh topic addressed in the film he wrote and directed titled “Wind River”.

Influenced by actual events that occur in the area, the film stars Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert, a veteran hunter who comes across a dead, frozen, and raped teenage Indian girl out in the cold woods and miles away from any town or civilisation. Using his hunting and tracking skills, he helps a FBI Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) who is assigned the task of solving the crime.

This film is depressing and intense, but it is a real eye-opener. It may seem like a murder-mystery at surface level, but the film is more about the harsh environment, how it impacts people, and how unspeakable tragedies towards Native Americans are handled. The plot is simple, but shared in an engaging way that builds up central characters. Renner gave a fantastic performanceas Cory Lambert. He’s someone who has lost his daughter in the same tragic way, and has become a changed man who must confront that dark part of his life during this investigation. Even the supporting cast, such as the victim’s father played by Gil Birmingham, lend emotionally moving performances. With Birmingham, you end up feeling sorry not only for his loss, but for how he and his family have received little to no respect in the wake of it.

As for the technical side of the film, the cinematography shows off the isolated landscapes of the cold and snowy mountains well, sometimes employing hand-shaking cinematography. And while this technique is good to bring intensity in certain scenes involving action and fear, one of my two tiny nitpicks with the film is that it feels unnecessary for a simple dialogue scene.

Similarly, we do get a flashback sequence telling us what really happened on the night the victim died, but it does come out of nowhere with no sequence to bring us into it – I just thought that it was a little weird. But I did enjoy Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ soundtrack as it brings a haunting woe effect upon the film’s atmosphere.

I’m glad I saw the film as it opened me up to an issue that is harsh to a group of people in an incredibly rough environment. I’m definitely placing this film in the top 10 best films of this year, maybe even top five. This is a film that must not be missed or be pushed under the rug- highly recommended for everyone, especially for fans of Taylor Sheridan’s previous work.

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