Wind River Review
If you are planning to see a movie this weekend, you will be in for a cold reception...whoops, I mean treat if you play your cards right. Thanks to Chicago International Film Festival, I was able to catch an early screening of "Wind River." This is a dark, grisly crime thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner and Jon Bernthal, so fans of the MCU should rejoice seeing Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and The Punisher all in the same place. But I should assure you, this is no superhero tale. I have read critics comparing "Wind River" to something done by the Coen brothers, and honestly, I can see that. This has pieces of "Fargo," pieces of "Law and Order" all in its formula, throw in a brutal Mexican Stand-off and you got yourself one moody thriller.
Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a US Fish and Wildlife Service agent stationed deep in the Wyoming wilderness at the Wild River Indian Reservation. While on the prowl to stop wildcats from slaughtering the locals cattle, he comes across a dead body. Clearly, it suffered from frost bite, but after observing the body without contaminating evidence, its clear this was no accident. The FBI sends agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to the scene to investigate the dead body. After an autopsy, its clear the girl has been raped and murdered. Since Lambert is good at tracking and knows the land so well, Banner asks Lambert to assist her in the investigation. Lambert agrees, after experiencing a similar trauma in his life, he accepts to find some self-redemption.
This film is the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the scripts for "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water." Both damn fine films, really great modern crime thrillers. You should see both of them if you haven't already. "Wind River" is proof that not only is Sheridan good on the page, but he's got a meaningful, powerful eye behind the camera as well. I can only hope that this leads to more crime dramas he directs in the future. The entire cast is all on fire. After so many Marvel movies, we know how good Renner and Olsen are as performers. We know the chemistry they share onscreen is above natural. There is already a powerful acting note between them even before they are seen together. Chris Pine was set to play Lambert, but had to drop out, and while I love Pine, I think Renner really makes the character his own in a way Pine couldn't. Olsen continues to prove why and how she's the Olsen sister with all the talent in the family.
The rest of the cast is great across the board. The always reliable Jon Bernthal shows up for a minor yet brutally well done part. Bernthal has a knack for showing up for smaller roles in movies lately, but he always leaves a stand-out signature. Gil Birmingham plays the father of the dead girl, and he also starred in "Hell Or High Water." He's a brilliant actor, and while he also doesn't have a big role either, he's note perfect here. This is an amazing revelation of this film, Sheridan casts several actors I had never heard of before "Wild River" and no matter if a face is a supporting player or a lead player or a cameo, the faces are memorable by the end of the film.
"Wild River" is also incredibly engaging due to not stooping to the usual cliches. Well, almost all of them. Yes, there is a shootout climax. But I did appreciate that the relationship between Olsen and Renner never became romantic. There is a confrontation between the "Bad guy" and Renner at the end, and it doesn't exactly play out as you would imagine. That's the fun of the film, you think you know what's going to happen, but it doesn't quite play to your expectations. Sheridan has never written and now never directed, a movie with certain expectations. He doesn't revolutionize a genre, and I wouldn't say "Wild River" is a game changer in storytelling, but it leaps from the usual norms of its genre.
You are going to want to put Taylor Sheridan on your list of favorite directors soon I believe. You will also want to check this out on August 4th.
FINAL GRADE: A-