Wind River a disturbing, well-made thriller

Elizabeth Olsen as agent Jane Banner and Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert perform in a scene from Wind River.

BY RYAN MACKETT


WIND River is an extremely tense, exceptionally well-written thriller from Taylor Sheridan. The actor-turned-writer/director has been nominated for an Academy Award at the 2017 Oscars for writing Hell or High Water; he is also the writer of the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film Sicario. I was very impressed with the competent directing, considering Wind River is merely his second feature directorial effort.

When a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker stumbles across the body of a young Native American girl while hunting some troublesome mountain lions on the Wind River Indian Reserve, he finds himself teaming with the local Tribal Police Chief and a very un-prepared FBI agent in an effort to locate the killer.

Avengers co-stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen re-team as Cory Lambert and Agent Jane Banner. Renner turned in a terrific, understated and confident performance as Lambert; I feel that Renner is underrated in some regards and his abilities are able to shine in this role. Olsen was also stellar as Banner. Olsen portrayed Banner as a field agent entirely out of her element and completely unprepared for the situation she was thrust into, yet she remained commanding, in-control and cool-headed in spite of the horrors and emotional stress she experiences on the case.

The rest of the fantastic cast includes Canadian actors Graham Greene and Tantoo Cardinal, Menominee actor Apesanahkwat, along with Gil Birmingham, Julia Jones, Teo Briones, Tokala Clifford and Martin Sensmeier, among others.

At its core, this film is a story about pain, loss, grief and power. It is a character-driven search for closure disguised as a crime procedural thriller. At the same time, it offers a glimpse at what life is like for the people living on one of the United States’ largest Indian Reservations. It also showcases how different people deal with the “snow and silence” of Wyoming.

The movie was a tight, tense, well-paced thriller. There were some extremely graphic and disturbing sequences of violence that was so realistic and visceral, it left me feeling very unsettled. Some of what is shown includes sexual violence, which may be difficult for many to watch. This is not a typical action thriller; Wind River is deep and deals with some very serious and difficult issues.

Aside from being a well-made movie, the film also draws attention to the horrific fact that in the United States, no one knows how many Native American women have disappeared. This draws some very disturbing parallels to the similar crisis occurring in Canada. I highly recommend this film, however I encourage viewer discretion.

Ryan Mackett is an artist and film enthusiast who resides in Thunder Bay. Email questions or comments to him at tbaymovieguy@gmail.com.

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