Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, Wind River follows a tracker and an FBI agent as they hunt for a murderer on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Does Sheridan make the successful jump to directing or should he just stick to screenwriting?
When Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, takes his son to visit his ex-wife’s parents on the Wind River Indian Reservation, he investigates some mauled livestock. He tracks the mountain lions responsible and comes across the body of a teen he’s known since she was a child, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille). The Tribal Police Chief, Ben (Graham Greene), arrives on the scene and calls in the FBI. The Bureau sends in a rookie special agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who requests Cory’s help in tracking down Natalie’s killer. Cory agrees, but is wary due to the old wounds the case opens up for him. Can Cory and Jane catch the killer before the trail goes cold?
Wind River is a dark crime thriller, which is right in Sheridan’s wheelhouse. As the screenwriter behind Sicario and Hell or High Water, Sheridan has proven he can craft a compelling film. His direction is pretty good too. There are some nice sweeping shots that show off the desolate, but beautiful, Wyoming landscape. However, he also employs a lot of shaky cam, which rubbed me the wrong way.
The story is fairly straight forward with one nice twist that comes in the film’s climax. It’s not as much about the plot as it is about the characters and how they deal with both the case and their own traumas. There is some great character work here with both the leads and the supporting cast. The mystery kept me engaged, but the characters’ stories made the journey even more worthwhile.
The cast is absolutely fantastic. Renner delivers some of his best work as the tortured Cory. He’s a solid anchor for the film and he proves, once again, that he can indeed cut it as a leading man when given the right material. Olsen is also great as the inexperienced FBI agent. She and Renner maintain the chemistry they developed in the Marvel films and use it to their advantage to create a tight bond between their two characters. Greene has a sarcastic world-weariness to him and he delivers some much-needed levity to the proceedings. I also really enjoyed Gil Birmingham’s performance as Natalie’s grieving father, Martin. The emotion that pours out of him is just so authentic. As an audience member, you grieve with him.
Overall, despite a bit too much shaky cam, Wind River is a smashing success as Taylor Sheridan’s feature directorial debut. He continues his great screenwriting work by turning in a taut, gripping thriller and as a director, gets the best out of a stellar cast. See it.