Wind River Dir: Taylor Sheridan


Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene

Oscar-nominated (Hell Or High Water) screenplay writer Taylor Sheridan moves into the director’s chair for the first time. The result is a bleak, who-done-it set in the blizzard-ridden Rocky Mountains of Wyoming.  

As the film unfurls, we witness an 18-year-old running for her life, barefoot, in a raging, freezing blizzard.

Next, we meet Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), who works for the US Fish & Game Wildlife Service, as he discovers the young woman’s frozen body while hunting a mountain lion that has been attacking the local livestock.

The body is discovered on the Wind River Indian Reservation, out of the jurisdiction of the local law enforcement, and so the FBI must be called in to investigate.

Enter FBI agent Janet Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), sent in from Las Vegas, and completely unprepared for the harsh weather conditions. A relatively new addition to the bureau, she seems, at first, unprepared to conduct the investigation. Fortunately, she has Mr Lambert to help.

Lambert, who we learn is a single dad, whose teenage daughter died three years earlier, is your classic brooding, white, middle-age male loner. Good at what he does…a predator hunter for hire…but not so good in the relationship department.

To Sheridan’s credit, he doesn’t throw these two into bed or make any kind of sexual tension the driving force of the film.

But, he does manage to include plenty of other stereotypes and clichés…most notably in his screenplay. One wonders if the challenge of writing and directing forced him to take his eye off the ball when behind the typewriter.

Fortunately his directing is exquisite. Sheridan’s camera captures “the snow and the silence” perfectly as the protagonists follow the trail to the person or people responsible for the young girl’s death.

I would warn viewers no to get too comfy watching the scenes of the beautiful landscape as violence tends to erupt suddenly and quite explicitly in this film.

Of course this being America, and the wild West, everyone is armed and that fact is brought into sharp, almost comical relief during a 10-man stand-off between various law enforcement agencies as they stare down the barrels of their guns at each other claiming jurisdiction.

Wind River isn’t quite the film that Hell Or High Water is, but there is enough fine filmmaking and acting (and action) to make it a qualified success for its screenwriter-turned director.

Marty Duda