by: Sean Harrison
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Jeremy Renner (Cory Lambert), Elizabeth Olsen (Jane Banner), Gil Birmingham (Martin Hanson), Jon Bernthal (Matt), Julia Jones (Wilma Lambert), Kelsey Chow (Natalie Hanson), Graham Greene (Ben)
At first glance, Wind River may seem like it’s going to be a run-of-the-mill whodunit. However, Taylor Sheridan doesn’t do things by the book. This is his first directed movie, but he’s already become a respected screenwriter due to his work on Sicario and Hell or High Water. And much like those two, this film is not only a thriller but a thriller with a social conscience. That being said, it isn’t overly preachy.
Anyway, let’s get to the story. The film takes place on the Wind River Reservation in northern Wyoming and begins with teenager Natalie Hanson collapsing in the snow and dying. Her body is discovered by local hunter Cory Lambert, and it is revealed that she was the best friend of Lambert’s daughter who died three years earlier. This leads to the arrival of a rookie FBI agent (who is completely unprepared for the cold). What follows is a slow-burning whodunit after the FBI agent asks Lambert for his help, though this is where the plot becomes less conventional. The search for Natalie’s murderer is used to drive the plot along, but the film seems more concerned with the emotional impact of her death (such as being a parent who’s lost a child).
That last part gives this film an emotional weight that most films of its genre do not normally possess. Sheridan deserves much praise for his script and for his direction. In addition, the acting is phenomenal. Both Renner and Olsen deserve recognition come award season (as does Sheridan). In fact, I can’t think of anything that I would say is wrong with this movie. So far this is probably the best thriller of the year, even if it may move a little slow.