FILM REVIEW: Wind River
FILM: Wind River
DIRECTOR: Taylor Sheridan
SYNOPSIS: Cory Lambert is a wildlife officer who finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on a Native American reservation in snowy Wyoming. When the autopsy reveals that she was raped, FBI agent Jane Banner arrives to investigate. Teaming up with Lambert as a guide, the duo soon find that their lives are in danger while trying to solve the mystery of the teen’s death.
Review by Mickey Chua.
Wind River is one of those annual high profile cinematic releases bound for both film critics’ and audiences’ year‐end ‘best of’ lists. An opening image of a young Native American woman running barefoot across the frozen, desolate Wyoming landscape sets the tone for the film. It is a towering, powerful moment, made further intensified by a voiceover narration reciting from a poem we would later come to better understand. Not long after, her body is found by Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), whom the death resonates especially painfully with due to a similar loss three years ago. The FBI dispatches rookie Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to investigate the case, and together with the local sheriff Ben (Graham Greene), the trio set out on a perilous expedition to unfold the mystery surrounding the teenager’s untimely death. Jane slowly begins to grasp the bleak, unforgiving nature of Sheridan’s story world. “This isn’t the land of back up. This is the land of you’re on your own,” the sheriff aptly says early on. As the plot progresses, Wind River reveals itself more concerned with the silent, unspoken way its characters deal with its themes of grief and loss, rather than the actual events themselves.
Premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Wind River would go on to compete at Cannes and pick up the Best Director award for Sheridan’s debut directorial effort in the Un Certain Regard category. Indeed the film rings home for Sheridan, who grew up on a ranch in North Texas and would later spend much time around the Indigenous population of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone regions, equipping him with the necessary sensitivity in depicting these all too real characters. Sheridan’s keen eye for detail and flair for sharp, authentic dialogue – coupled with breathtaking cinematography from Ben Richardson, standout performances, and a suitably moody soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – help elevate this otherwise conventional crime mystery to a chilling, thought-provoking thriller.
In a year marked by an alarming surfacing of numerous sexual misconduct accounts in the media, Wind River has never felt more relevant, or essential, in its attempt to shed light on the hidden issues gone through by an otherwise overlooked population. Yet the beauty of the film is that it hardly provides us with the answers, only questions, as the characters fight to survive and make sense of the world they live in. The concluding scene of a conversation between Cory and the deceased teenager’s father is both understated and heartfelt. It is quiet, reflective, and perhaps even hopeful, despite still undeniably haunted by ghosts of events prior.
This is a movie that shouldn’t be missed.
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