Released: 8th September 2017
Directed By: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen
Reviewed By: Van Connor
Sicario and Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan makes his sophomore appearance behind the camera with this hard-boiled whodunnit, in which Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star as a hunter and rookie FBI agent tasked with investigating the rape and murder of a young girl on a Native American reservation in Wyoming. Given that Sheridan’s involved, you know most assuredly not to expect a fluffy rom-com, but, with Wind River, Sheridan offers up something even more stirring than his usual efforts – capping off his of-a-fashion trilogy with perhaps his psychologically nastiest effort to date.
Though a rather simplistic effort once you begin to break down the particulars of its central procedural storyline, where Wind River truly soars is in the consistent and very grounded texture that Sheridan applies his work. A visually breathtaking work that could just as easily utilise an IMAX screen as it does the standard, Wind River’s a gorgeous tale for which its stark and striking facade provides a sublime juxtaposition for the human darkest festering at its core. That core though is Sheridan’s bread-and-butter, lest we forget, and he delivers yet again as one of the finest screenwriters in the business in delivering a powerhouse character-driven side to the film that propels it far beyond the mere credit of being a rare “for the grown-ups” multiplex offering.
Though rarely anyone’s idea of a leading man, Renner’s given the perfect characterisation here on which to mount his grizzled and almost deadpan persona. It’s effectively a Rod Steiger role, and – given the manner in which Sheridan noticeably calls back to seventies American cinema in his work – you can’t help but feel that that’s absolutely intentional. Mercifully, it’s also something that Renner knows absolutely to play with, and the results will remind you just why he became the breakout star of The Hurt Locker oh so many years ago now. Keeping impressive pace though, Olsen follows in the footsteps of Emily Blunt in being another superbly crafted female character on her writer’s docket, with her performance here drawing more on the nuance of her turn in Martha Marcy May Marlene than anything else to imbue her relatively green Fed with the humanistic gristle needed to keep her in grand stead opposite her former Avengers co-star.
Make no mistake though, Wind River is absolutely a showcase for Taylor Sheridan above all others. Swinging for the immersiveness of Denis Villeneuve’s work behind the camera for Sicario, Sheridan – who, prior to this, had only helmed the near completely-forgotten 2011 horror flick, Vile – lands instead somewhat closer to the man v nature visual palette employed by Christopher Nolan with Insomnia. A swing and a miss, sure, but a hell of a solid place to land for a miss. Directing from his own screenplay allows Sheridan to fully engorge himself on the fine character work at play, and it helps matters to no end that his directorial chops keep said engorgement engrossing to the very end.
Peppered with a wonderfully otherworldly score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – a sublime work that captivates, but never threatens to overtake proceedings – and crisp work by Beasts of the Southern Wild cinematographer Ben Richardson, Wind River’s got the full package. A mesmerising, intriguing, and unflinching feature that offers as much in the character department as it does plot, it’s the announcement of a new and impressive player to the game of increasingly adult thrillers in a marketplace sorely lacking such works in recent decades.