REVIEW

Stark realism impresses in “Wind River”

This "modern western" combines visceral scenes with beautiful landscape scenery

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There is an intensely visceral aspect to Taylor Sheridan’s new film “Wind River.” His presentation of the gorgeous, frigid landscapes penetrates to the core and his characters are rich and engrossing. 

Sheridan, who also penned the script, successfully captures his audience, draws it directly and unforgivingly into the frozen, harsh Wyoming countryside and thrusts it into a psychological thriller that chills to the bone. 

With “Wind River,” Sheridan forces his audience to observe and absorb every minute detail of the story. Through Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a game hunter and tracker, and Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), an inexperienced FBI agent, he gives us a pairing that evokes an emotional intensity and a deeply felt passion for the task at hand – to track and hunt a killer. This is perhaps Renner’s most accomplished portrayal to date. Cory is a complicated man, but there is a transparency, too.  Renner’s eyes tell the tale of loss and pain, of a character dramatically drawn by Sheridan. Cory’s concentration is clear and his decisions dogged. Olsen’s natural beauty can’t be played down but her depiction of ardent and resolute Jane - a green, but dedicated agent thrown into a situation beyond her normal scope - is superb. 

A murder thriller guides the plot but social consciousness provides the line that holds the snow covered world and its broken inhabitants together.  Its gritty and engaging, but it is far from perfect. Sheridan pushes the limits of realism - opting for bloody shootouts and drug runners that take the mystery a tad off track. Still, he manages spectacular imagery and a pace that demands full attention and focus. As our heroes trace and track the killer, so does the audience – again, it’s all in the details. 

“Wind River” is a suspense story that squares shock and uncertainty with discernable demonstrative depth. Thanks to Sheridan’s script, the dialogue exceeds expectation and it feels real and honest. “Luck doesn’t live here. Luck lives in the city” rings true throughout the story. Sheridan’s landscape is unsympathetic, merciless and gloomy, and the people who reside there are resolved to it. It’s a somber and stark reality peeled open and raw. 

Sheridan doesn’t preach, but he does make us watch and understand the depression and desolation of the Native American people who live in Wind River, Wyoming. Their plight is no movie, violence against women there is not fictitious (neither are drug abuse and alcoholism) – the statistics are not lain out in numbers or on a chart, but rather they are exhibited clearly in the tale told. The most notable difference lies in the fact that reality doesn’t end with a neat finale and rolling credits. Because of this and the cast and crew, "Wind River" stands out and "Wind River" deserves an A.

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