Published on August 11th, 2017 | by Ian M. Woodington0
Between Sicario and Hell or High Water (both of which landed on my year-end best lists for 2015 and 2016 respectively), Taylor Sheridan has already proven to be an incredible talent at crafting slow-burning thrillers that also serve as in-depth character studies. His new film, third as a screenwriter and second as a director, may move at quite a faster pace than his previous two screenplays, but it is no less accomplished, either in plot or in character development. Though some may leave the theater feeling that they haven’t seen anything new, and they’d be right to as there isn’t anything particularly flashy or unique in the direction or cinematography, Wind River however finds its strength in its simplicity. It’s a simple story concerning the death of a young girl on a Wyoming reservation, of the tracker (Jeremy Renner) for whom the circumstance strikes too close to home, and of the presumably untested FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) forced to face the darker side of her chosen profession.
For Jeremy Renner, Wind River marks a career best. He displays restraint in a role that others would have played far too arrogantly and when he lets us in to share in his character’s painful past, the melodrama inherent in the dialogue is delivered with dignity and humility. Complimenting his performance beautifully is Gil Birmingham as Martin, the father of the murdered girl. Much like his work opposite Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water, his scenes with Renner are the highlight of the film. Every line he delivers reverberates with truth and with the weight of losing of two children, one whose life is thrown away to drug use and one to an untimely, mysterious death. Veteran actor and longtime favorite of mine, Graham Greene is also on hand to give a competent turn as the local sheriff who in equal measures doles out tension-relieving humor as well as reminding us of the gravity of a bleak situation.
In amongst a predominately-male cast, Elizabeth Olsen shines. This film was an undoubtedly a tough task, as her character is given no soft options, and her performance gave me cause to reflect on a young Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs. I don’t just draw this comparison because of the fact they both play young agents thrust into a situation beyond their level of experience, but because of the scenes in these films where they are called upon to confidently take command of a room full of men and to show great physicality in moments of unexpected violence. It’s another top mark in her filmography comparable to her breakout in Martha Marcy May Marlene and hopefully, in-between bouts of this bloated Marvel Cinematic Universe nonsense, we’ll continue to see her in roles of some substance.
4 ½ out of 5