Wind River is the directorial debut for screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, and revolves around veteran game tracker and FBI agent teaming up to solve a mysterious murder that occurs on a Native American reservation.

Sheridan has made quite the name for himself in recent years, with hit films like Sicario and Hell or High Water drawing critical acclaim because of their screenplays, which were both written by Sheridan. This time around, Sheridan not only penned the screenplay, but is also behind the Director’s chair. For the most part, he succeeds at making a decent film that has a strong focus on characters, and not much else. The story and murder mystery is pretty bare bones and simple, not one trying to keep the audience guessing, but rather something that serves to develop the characters and get them from point A to point B. While some may have a problem with the movie at first glance because of a supposed “White Savior” trope, Jeremy Renner’s character Corey Lamber is brilliantly played and given a proper tragic backstory to justify his presence in the story. Elizabeth Olsen is also along for the ride as FBI agent Jane Banner, who is doing her absolute best to track down those responsible for the death of a young Native American woman.

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It’s clear from the beginning that Sheridan used his past experience as an actor to get some excellent performances out of Renner and the rest of the cast, as their development throughout the film was one that was particularly enjoyable to watch. Renner as Corey Lamber is the best character overall in this film, acting as a modern day gunslinging cowboy. Watching his character work with the authorities to help track those responsible for the murder was great entertainment, and the tragic backstory the character has as well as his chemistry with the other characters saves him from being archetypal. Olsen’s character is reminiscent of Emily Blunt’s character in Sicario, as she plays an inexperienced idealist and serves as the audiences viewpoint to the film. The only problem with her character would be how she is handled towards the end of the film, as she is underutilized and sidelined in a way that feels unnecessary. Graham Greene also gives an amusing and great performance as Ben, the head of police on the reservation. His subtle and dry humor is a welcome addition to the film, as it helps ease the tension and darkness some moments of the film carry. Gil Birmingham gives on of his best performances as Jack, the father of the young girl who was murdered. Although having very little screen-time, Birmingham makes it count and delivers emotional performances in every scene he is in.

The cinematography by Ben Richardson does the cold climate setting justice, capturing the feel of the cold air and the snowy environment perfectly. The snowy terrain has a certain feel to it, as the reservation and surrounding snowy areas is almost a character of itself, as it has in impact on all of the characters in different ways. While the film itself does not have many creative shots, it gets the job done of conveying the mood and atmosphere that fits well with the story. Speaking of the story, the whole plot of Wind River leaves something to be desired.

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The whole murder mystery plot of the film feels like it solved quickly, almost a little too quickly, even with the films 1 hour and 51 minute runtime. This film is clear example of story taking a backseat to characters and their development, with a little bit of narrative threads here and there. The mystery is solved rather quickly in the beginning of the third act, and while Sheridan does an excellent job at creating extremely tense scenes and orchestrating gunfights in a satisfying and awesome way, he also hits you over the head with the answer to the whodunit, in a way that isn’t very ceremonious. Overall, despite providing some excellent characters with great development and an intriguing murder mystery, Wind River falters in story and leaving any sort of real impact on the viewer. – Ernesto Valenzuela

GRADE – 7.9/10 

Wind River is Now Playing in Theaters

Wind River – An FBI agent teams up with a veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation.

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