Wind River

 

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Native Americans play a key role in a tale of detection set in Wyoming.

 
Wind River

Hugh Dillon, Elizabeth Olsen and Graham Greene

 

At the close of this film a written statement appears about the lack of statistics concerning the number of Native American women who go missing. It is clear evidence of the fact that Taylor Sheridan, making his second feature as a director but better established as a screenwriter, has ambitions here. They are ambitions that go beyond the thriller element inherent in his story about an investigation into the death of an 18-year-old Native American girl, a rape victim whose body is found on an Indian reservation in Wyoming half buried in snow. Indeed, the serious mood of the film has already been well established, not least through the music score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

 

Judged as the work of a relatively new director, Wind River shows definite promise. Sheridan makes good use of the location (largely Utah standing in for Wyoming): his film is the more striking because of the wintry setting and, for the most part, he directs very competently. As for his story, Wind River has at its centre Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a game tracker living locally whose regular work leads to his finding the girl’s dead body. His knowledge of the territory results in his being enrolled as an aid to the somewhat inexperienced FBI agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), sent in to deal with the case. What they uncover will in due course lead to another corpse being found and ultimately to the chief culprit being identified.

 

All of this makes for a very watchable tale of detection suitably cast (Olsen is an actress who brings a natural integrity to her roles and several Native Americans feature in the supporting cast). However, a number of factors beyond those indicated above confirm Sheridan’s deeper intentions. There is, for example, the revelation of a tragedy in the life of Cory Lambert which had happened three years earlier and that links with the obvious attempt to give depth to the characterisations. Furthermore, the legal rules that can limit the jurisdiction of the FBI inside a reservation to such serious crimes as murder play a substantial role in the story. Racial issues are also involved together with the harshness of life in this region and, indeed, Sheridan sees Wind River as completing a trilogy about the American frontier following Sicario (2015) and Hell or High Water (2016), both of which he wrote.

 

The ambition is admirable and one feels it as the film unfolds, yet this very fact makes one aware that Wind River never quite acquires the depth being sought. There is a social and emotional resonance that should be there but which is never given full expression. Consequently, while the film is certainly not ineffective as a dramatic entertainment, one feels that the filmmaker has not succeeded in creating the searing document that he intended.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbille, Jon Bernthal, Martin Sensmeier, James Jordan, Tokala Clifford, Althea San, Teo Briones, Hugh Dillon, Tantoo Cardinal.

 

Dir Taylor Sheridan, Pro Basil Iwanyk, Peter Berg, Wayne Rogers and Wayne Rogers, Screenplay Taylor Sheridan, Ph Ben Richardson, Pro Des Neil Spisak, Ed Gary Roach, Music Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Costumes Kari Perkins.

 

Ingenious Media/Acacia Filmed Entertainment/Voltage Pictures/Wild Bunch-STX Entertainment.
107 mins. UK/Canada/USA. 2017. Rel: 8 September 2017. Cert. 15.