Wind River is one of the best films of 2017. It is a haunting and powerful story about survival in one of the most misunderstood places in the western world. It is also a taut and effective detective story.
In his directorial debut, Taylor Sheridan has created a mini masterpiece that is filled with characters who are believable individuals, who speak softly and to the point. In short, real people with real emotions. The film stars Jeremy Renner as a tracker for US fish and Game who stumbles across the frozen body of an 18-year-old Native American woman in the middle of a snow covered field on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. After reporting the murder to the local law enforcement, headed by the great Canadian actor Graham Greene, the FBI is called in. Enter Elizabeth Olsen as a fish out of water agent sent from the big city. Together they uncover how this poor girl died, miles away from where anyone could hear her.
Renner gives a career best here. His tracker is a divorced father living on the reservation, dealing with a personal tragedy that has ties to the dead young woman. His character speaks volumes with his eyes. He’s a man of little words who uses his wits and years of experience to help the FBI. Olsen, also doing fine work, is the audience’s eyes and ears, unfamiliar of the politics and the reality of America’s indigenous people.
The film is dark. There are moments that I will not forget. The sight of a young, barefooted woman running across a moonlit, snow covered meadow to her certain death, is burned into my mind. Sheridan has crafted a film that has a real sense of place and atmosphere. He places us firmly in this community and dosen’t hold back the realities of their way of life.