In Wind River, the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water, an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) teams with a town’s veteran game tracker (Jeremy Renner) to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. Both the past films written by Sheridan did not fail to impress me, as both were masterfully written and very engaging. Wind River sees Sheridan in the director’s chair and he delivers yet another excellent screenplay, this time set in a snowy reservation in Wyoming. Sheridan develops his settings and main characters very well in all three of his scripts, and here it doesn’t fail as well. Jeremy Renner delivers one of his best performances as the main character, who has a tragic past and an estranged family, and you feel for the emotion Renner provides in every scene, and his character is superbly written. As much as I love him as Hawkeye in the Marvel universe, his best roles are the ones in smaller films, those that go into emotional depth, even like in last year’s Arrival. This is definitely up there with his performances in Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar winner The Hurt Locker and Ben Affleck’s heist thriller The Town as one of his greatest roles. Elizabeth Olsen has a few good moments in the film, but it mostly felt like she was just reading lines off a script and barely brought much depth into her character, and it was ultimately hard to care for her role.
Wind River has a Coen brothers vibe to it, as it feels like it drew great inspiration from Fargo, not just the development of the cold, isolated setting but also the way tension is built so well through small scenes. For those looking for a thrilling and interesting mystery thriller to watch, you’ll definitely be entertained, although I never felt like it brought anything new to the genre. The overall structure is entertaining but also feels very familiar and it didn’t offer much that was new or ground-breaking. Although the script is overall great, I was sometimes concerned by the directing before watching the movie, as this is Sheridan’s first time directing a film. I was mostly impressed by the directing, especially for a debut, but the use of handheld cam is often too shaky and sometimes distracting. Some shots are captured very well, but during the smaller, more conversational scenes, the camerawork could have used some improvement. There wasn’t the energy to it that Sicario and Hell or High Water had, as those films had more richness in their cinematography and directing, part of what made them both better films. This film could have used some more interesting and longer shots, as well as less noticeable handheld camera to make some scenes even stronger, but I overall was very pleased by what Sheridan was able to do as a director for the first time. He didn’t offer the incredible style brought by the directors of his previous scripts, but his work is still solid and appreciable, and I was still able to really enjoy the film. I hope to see Sheridan write and direct many more films in the future.
Wind River is a violent, engaging, and smart thriller with a great script and lead performance, and although the story is still somewhat familiar and the directing isn’t perfect, this is the type of film cinema should have more of to offer, and I’d definitely recommend this as a film to go watch when it’s released this August.