As a screenwriter, Taylor Sheridan has thrown us into a drug war on the border of Mexico and the U.S. in Sicario and taken us to West Texas for some brotherhood bonding via bank robberies in Hell or High Water. With WIND RIVER, the Golden Globe-nominated writer (and possibly Oscar-nominated by the time you read this) also sits in the director’s chair as he tells murder mystery set in a snowy Native American reservation in Wyoming. The writer’s signature intensity is ever present and feels too safe — which only leaves room for Sheridan’s directing chops to grow.
When U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent and resident hunter/tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is on duty in the rugged wilderness of Wind River, he comes across a dead body of a young woman he knows — which stirs up some all-too-familiar feelings for him. To help with what may be a homicide, the FBI sends Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), a rookie by-the-book FBI agent who is smart but puts on an extra layer of toughness to compensate for her insecurity. The closer they get to solving the young woman’s death, the more corrupt, sordid, and violent things get. There’s also snow. Lots of it.
Many are billing this as Sheridan’s directorial debut, which means that they are discounting his IMDb listing of 2011 horror Vile — maybe for good reason. Even so, if Hollywood wants to consider this his “official” first film, then it’s a good choice. Wind River a solid first-time-out-of-the-gate film. There really isn’t anything wrong with Wind River as it has the Sheridan brand of storytelling written all over it — mainly a flawed character looking to redeem themselves by blurring the lines of rights from wrong. And of course, gratuitous violence and a Mexican stand-off with guns wildly firing and exploding blood squibs when needed. It’s all good, but it’s a Sheridan formula that we have almost gotten used too. His voice is strong but feels too familiar, but perhaps he’s keeping all his risks for the upcoming Soldado.
Above all, this is Renner’s film. We haven’t seen him take a lead like this since The Hurt Locker. Sure, he has had starring roles in movies like Kill the Messenger, but does anyone really remember that? That said, it hasn’t been the man who plays Hawkeye in The Avengers it, but with Wind River, it’s his time. Renner plays the role of Cory with a balanced gruff and sensitivity that carries the film and does well opposite Olsen’s valiant impression of an FBI agent.
Wind River is a fine addition to Sheridan’s resume. Writing-wise it ranks third in the bookend to the unofficial Sicario-Hell or High Water-Wind River trilogy. Directing-wise, it’s one of his best. It may be his first, but solid nonetheless.
Rated: Not yet rated
Running time: 111 minutes
Dino watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Follow Dino on Twitter: @dinoray
Keep up with all of Dino’s reviews and stories here.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer