By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Taylor Sheridan’s directing debut captures the thrills of the damaged gun-toting hero that we’ve seen in instant classics like Hell or High Water or No Country For Old Men, and lights up the screen with stunning landscapes of a poetic but ruthless snow-covered Wyoming.
Veteran tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) finds the body of a Native American girl in the snowy mountains of the Wind River reservation in Wyoming and works with an out-of-town FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) to track down the killer.
Presented at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival this year by Jeremy Renner himself, this is director Taylor Sheridan’s first film (not including his disowned 2011 film Vile), and was well-earned after his writing work on both David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water and Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario. The immeasurable talent from both of these hot directors has evidently rubbed off.
Wind River is a thriller, a drama, and almost an epic. Epic in the sense that there’s an endless story of struggle with the region’s isolated but fascinating characters, especially the Native American community who are very much taken advantage of. It’s also epic in the sense that the landscape is just magnificent and hostile.
The gorgeous shots of the endless mountain sprawl make for moving imagery, and Sheridan has cleverly captured the tracker instincts and all round meticulous thought of Lambert through a series of well choreographed hunting sequences, and haunting score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
The director’s also taken careful time to build the troublesome relationships among Wind River’s characters in relation to the hostile environment that, despite its sheer size, feels absolutely inescapable. The characters are as changeable as the weather and harsh landscape. It actually feels like it’d make a fantastic True Detective-like television mini-series as well.
Jeremy Renner shines in a possible career-best as the grieving Lambert and almost reminds one of Clint Eastwood circa western era, but with heart. Elizabeth Olsen’s tough but fish-out-of-water FBI agent Jane Banner is also an endearing character and the two play off each other’s experience quite well, but thankfully never get emotionally involved enough for there to be a cheesy romance. The two actors also played side-by-side in recent Marvel hits The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War.
It would have been nice however, to have see grieving of some of the minor characters. There’s certainly a lot of it around after the girl’s death and it could have helped to have learnt a little more about her through the eyes of her parents or addict brother. This would have not only contributed to the atmosphere, but to the political relevance of the overall message of the film, which is that Native American women are, for the most part, ignored when it comes to being victims of violent crime.
Wind River is definitely worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of the writer / director’s previous work. Check it out in a local Prague cinema today.