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WIND RIVER is a chilling thriller that follows a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams up with a game tracker with deep community ties and a haunted past (Jeremy Renner) to investigate the mysterious killing of a local girl on a remote Native American reservation.
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The FBI is called and rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) from the Las Vegas field office is sent to investigate. Realizing her unfamiliarity with the lay of the land, local law enforcement, and what clues to pursue, she asks Lambert to help her navigate the punishing environment and aid in the investigation.
As the investigation goes forward, assorted individuals are introduced, many of them Native Americans, including the reservation sheriff, Ben (Graham Greene), and Natalie’s father, Martin (Gil Birmingham). The community is tight-knit and frequently suspicious of outside law enforcement, but Lambert — a familiar face — helps those questioned to open up. The information they provide leads Lambert and Banner to focus on a man Natalie was romantically involved with.
As with most police procedurals, more details are gradually revealed, some pointing in unexpected directions. Banner gradually feels more comfortable dealing with the Indian community and develops empathy for their loss. Natalie becomes a person to her, not just another crime victim.
Director Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the screenplays for “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” has crafted a somber thriller set in the wilderness. What sets it apart from other thrillers is the rarely used northwestern Native American reservation, a location whose bitter cold reflects the desolation and depression of many who live there with little hope of a better life. Though the film doesn’t attempt to be a crusading documentary, it does show rampant substance abuse and violence as a regular part of life on the reservation. Sheridan adds complexity by including the problematic logistics regarding the laws of jurisdiction on American Indian lands.
Renner turns in an affecting performance as a man who has suffered loss yet goes on as best he can. This role gives him a chance to exercise a dramatic range he’s not been called upon to play in other films. With little dialogue, he conveys the inner hurt and sensitivity of a tough and skillful hunter who works alone most of the time, tracking wolves and other animals in the great expanse of snow-covered hills. Renner’s close-ups are especially effective, when he reacts to others and when we’re able to understand exactly what he’s thinking.
Ms. Olsen’s role is reminiscent of Jodi Foster’s Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Both characters are FBI agents new at their jobs, who take on a challenge that they refuse to let overwhelm them. Ms. Olsen’s Banner is initially like a deer in the headlights when thrust into this totally alien environment. Being a young woman leading an investigation makes the job that much more difficult. This is incidental to the major plot, however, and director Sheridan doesn’t get sidetracked by it.
“Wind River” is infused with a strong sense of place; at one point, a character describes the area as “snow and silence,” and both figure prominently in the film’s atmosphere.
A sobering on-screen note at the end of the movie states that figures are not kept about women who go missing on Native American reservations, though statistics are kept for every other racial demographic.
Bonus materials on the widescreen Blu-ray release include a behind-the-scenes video gallery, and deleted scenes. A digital HD copy is enclosed. “Wind River” is rated R for violence and strong language.
This movie is a modern take on westerns in the best possible ways. The love of fathers' for their little girls and their hate and vengeance toward those that do them harm.
Well worth the price of admission and one I'll definitely watch again.
I recommend this film to any who love reading mystery and suspense.
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