Release Date: August 4, 2017
Director: Taylor Sheridan
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Taylor Sheridan’s latest film, Wind River, is a gripping murder mystery that unravels across stunning landscapes. Following 2015’s Sicario and 2016’s Hell or High Water, his story of a rookie FBI agent who teams up with a local gametracker in the unforgiving terrain of Wyoming is the final installment of his self-described trilogy that explores the modern American frontier. All three films tell unrelenting stories about good versus evil and how it can often be difficult to sort out who is who.
Though shot in Park City, Utah, the film is set on a remote Native American Reservation called Wind River and stars Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner (both Avengers alums) in roles that feel tailor made for them. Olsen plays a fish out of water, but nonetheless passionate, FBI agent named Jane Banner who is flown to Wind River, primarily because of her geographical proximity to the reservation, to investigate a murder alongside Tribal Police. She partners with Cory Lambert (Renner), a skilled tracker with deep roots in the area and a dark past of his own.
Regular filmgoers will recognize supporting cast members Graham Greene, who plays the pragmatic Tribal Police Chief, Ben; Gil Birmingham as Martin, the father of the victim; and Julia Jones as Lambert’s ex-wife, Wilma.
Clocking in at a tight 107 minutes, the film never drags, and there is a rather significant tonal change in the film’s third act, which I won’t ruin for you. I will say that writer/director Sheridan ties a knot in your belly around the second act that doesn’t loosen up until the final frame.
The film’s score, courtesy of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, is utterly haunting and itself is a major part of the storytelling. Adding to the intensity, the action scenes are shot in such a way that the audience will feel pulled into them, probably closer than they would like, but this gives the tension-fueled set pieces a sense of authenticity — both visually and audibly — that might have otherwise felt lackluster.
While there is very clearly at least one victim of a crime in this film, the final title card tells viewers that, while missing-persons stats are collected for all other demographics, there are none collected for Native American women. “No one knows how many are missing,” it reads. It’s a grim reminder that missing can mean killed, and knowledge of an issue is most definitely the first step to changing it.
This one has an R rating for a reason — there’s quite a bit of violence and a scene that will be difficult to watch for many viewers. But I still give this one a strong recommend for its captivating storytelling, its dynamic performances and its important message.