Wind River is the new movie by the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water… two very good, serious and sometimes dark dramas. Taylor Sheridan both wrote and directed this film and he’s got as firm a touch on directing as does writing. This is a very good movie.
Set in the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, the film is a murder mystery about an 18 year old native american girl found dead in the snow, miles away from civilization. Jeremy Renner plays a Fish and Wildlife hunter who, while tracking some mountain lions, stumbles on the body. He and the tribal police call in the FBI… who can be bothered to only send one inexperienced agent played by Elizabeth Olson.
This is a taught, suspenseful, moody, deliberate, and sad film. It’s just as much about the investigation as it is about the downtrodden, bleak lives of the Native Americans living on the rez. Nobody seems all that surprised at another murdered native girl. People are angry with the government, with their plight. The movie is “inspired by real events” and it’s title card at the end notes that, in the real world we live in, nobody knows how many missing Native American women there are.
Jeremy Renner does a great job playing a taciturn and sad man with his own recent tragedy. He’s married to a native woman and identifies with the people on the rez, even if everyone knows he’s not REALLY one of them.
Elizabeth Olson’s FBI agent is even less familiar and welcome at first. She’s from Florida and wasn’t given time to dress for a brutally cold Wyoming winter which affirms the rez chief of police’s opinion about how seriously the feds care for this murdered girl. To her credit, Olson’s character does legitimately care even if she steps on toes accidentally. She’s a fish out of water of sorts and she’s inexperienced but she’s not foolish and proves she can handle herself. It’s a very good performance.
Graham Green plays the rez sheriff and there are a number of other rolls for Native American actors who also do a good job. I do rather wish Renner’s character had been an Indian though… instead of casting two white leads. I’m not the type to jump up and down about representation but, in this case, it did seem like a big missed opportunity. On the other hand, they’d have missed out on casting Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch in a movie (sigh).
I highly recommend this movie. Even if you just go see it as a quality murder mystery investigation flick, it’s really good. If you go in looking for a movie about something that sets a bleak and somber mood, you’ll get even more out of it. Excellent flick.