Taylor Sheridan has written the screenplays for some terrific movies, including ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’. Now you can add ‘Wind River’ to his growing list of accomplishments. On top of that, he also directed this movie. Sheridan is becoming a major player in Hollywood. ‘Sicario’ was set in the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. ‘Hell or High Water’ was set in West Texas. Now ‘Wind River’ is set in the Pacific Mountain West, and it is brutal look at the land and people who live there.
Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) works for U.S. government in Wyoming for Fish and Wildlife department. He is in charge of ‘predator control’, meaning he tracks and kills wolves, mountain lions and the like. One day he is out tracking and he finds the body of a young Indian woman. She is from the Wind River reservation. His ex-wife is also from the ‘rez’, so he goes and checks out what they say. He meets the Tribal Police Chief Ben (Graham Greene) and meets with the father of the young woman. Martin (Gil Birmingham) is the father and he is heart-broken.
They all meet up with a young and inexperienced FBI agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen). she was sent to help solve the murder. The young woman was raped and beaten, then while bleeding still she ran six miles barefoot in the snow. However, the local coroner is not helping. Even with the amount of violence heaped on her, he will not mark the cause of death as ‘murder’. The FBI will not send any more resources in to help out. Jane must ask Cory for his help, even though he is not in law enforcement.
Cory knows how to track, so that is how he helps. They go out and discover another body. So there is plenty of bad stuff going on. They just need to see what is behind it all. They go with Chief Ben to visit the young woman’s druggie brother and a couple of loser friends. That ends in a violent confrontation. But they learn that the woman had a white boyfriend named Matt (Jon Bernthal). Matt works on a security team at a nearby oil rig setup, about six miles from where Cory found the body.
Cory and Jane are beginning to think that some things are starting to come together, as a cloud of suspicion falls over Matt. So they plan for a trip out the oil rig location to find out what the people stationed there know about Matt or the woman. If they can place Matt somewhere near the place where Cory found her body, then they might be able to solve the case. But could there be more twists and turns in store for the investigators?
Jeremy Renner plays Cory in a very understated manner. He is not flashy, but focused – his character also has a tragic past with a dead daughter. He agrees to assist Jane because she is out of her depth when she is out on the reservation and in the wilderness. He portrays a dedicated man in touch with deep inner sense of justice, and he is not afraid to be a tracker/hunter for all types of predators.
Elizabeth Olsen does a wonderful job as Jane. Because her character is struggling in an overwhelming situation, she uses the talents of the people around her; Cory, Chief Ben and others. She is not afraid to confront wrongdoers, and she can take charge when she needs to. She has a palpable sense of outrage over the young woman’s rape and murder. The local customs and traits of the reservation are alien to her, and she out of her range when in the wilds of Wyoming.
The rest of the cast fits in perfectly with all the roles helping move the story along. The pacing is slower at the beginning, and then there are some areas where the danger and suspense kicks in and keeps you tense. It is an intriguing story that marries the reservation world with the larger one surrounding it. It keeps you wanting to learn more of Cory’s background and what makes him tick. You want to see a murder solved, even if the local coroner is not able to declare it a ‘murder’.
Justice must be served, and it is served in the chilly snow of the Rocky Mountain peaks. Taylor Sheridan has created a new genre with this movie. I would call it ‘Snow Noir’.