Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Film Review: Wind River

Hawkeye partners with Scarlet Witch for a thrilling murder mystery set against a freezing Wyoming backdrop.

After receiving widespread critical acclaim for his excellent penmanship on Sicario and Hell or High Water, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is on double duty in Wind River as both writer and director. The good news is, he handles the transition into directing with aplomb; the even better news is that the writing doesn't suffer either, and Wind River is his third consecutive success.

The film sees Elizabeth Olsen play FBI agent Jane Banner, a relative rookie drafted to lead an investigation into a sexual assault and murder of a young woman on a remote Wyoming reserve; Renner plays Cory Lambert, the local game hunter who found the body and knows the area like the back of his hand. Faced with finding the culprit in a wilderness the size of Rhode Island, the mismatched partners find themselves delving deep into the troubled community and their own haunted backstories.

Right from the get-go, Wind River had me gripped. It's a simple premise that we've seen before – a young woman has been killed and the rookie must gain the trust of the troubled expert to find the murderer – but its execution is so precise and meticulous that it is genuinely hard to fault the film on anything.

Thematically, Wind River has a lot in common with Sheridan's previous work, most notably Hell or High Water from last year. Both are about desolate fringe communities populated by people at their wits end; both are about the ugly side of America that rears its head when people are out of options; both are about violence, masculinity and desperation. In Wind River, Sheridan has penned a very loose spiritual sequel to his Oscar-nominated work in Hell or High Water, and the finished product is just as compelling and just as impactful.

Olsen's blend of doe-eyed vulnerability, warm compassion and headstrong confidence recalls memories of Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs. She's out of her depth, but still striding confidently in an attempt to keep her head above water. It's a surprisingly mature and composed performance that is undoubtedly her best work to date.

The same could be said of Renner; his thoughtful performance is definitely up there with The Hurt Locker. What with his Bourne spinoff going tits up and being relegated to a supporting act in The Avengers, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that this guy can stir up something good when afforded something meaty. Along with Arrival, Wind River could signal the start of a Rennersance – wait, we might need a different suffix for this comeback...

Through the taut script and deft direction, Sheridan is even able to afford even the smallest of roles weight; most notably, Gil Birmingham is able to serve up lashings of gut-wrenching emotion in just two scenes. Jon Bernthal wrings his limited screen time for all its worth also. There are no small parts in Wind River; even those with limited space in the story feel large.

Achingly gorgeous cinematography of freezing landscapes and a haunting score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are just the icing on the cake with this film; it's layer upon layer of goodness and one of the biggest surprises of the year.

The Verdict: 9/10

A moody and tense procedural anchored by great performances from Renner and Olsen, Wind River keeps things low-key, focuses on dialogue and its characters and revolves around a compelling mystery.

Wind River is in cinemas across Australia on August 10.


  1. I really hope my theater gets this, I've been wanting to see it since Sundance. Great review! I saw a lot of people say it had a lot in common with Sicario, so I was surprised when you said it felt more like Hell or High Water.

    1. It's a bit of both to be honest, with a healthy dose of its own stuff thrown in too :)



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