Film Review: Wind River

Frances Winston feels that this film is essentially a whodunnit, elevated by a well-written script, with a wonderful understated performance by Elizabeth Olsen

Directed by: Taylor Sheridan – Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Chow, Graham Greene

As anyone who’s ever watched a David Attenborough documentary knows, a snowy landscape can provide a spectacular backdrop, and this movie opens with a scene that wouldn’t actually look out of place in the aforementioned documentary – it looks truly breathtaking.

Unfortunately, as these documentaries also illustrate, life is harsh for those who live in such an environment, and the citizens of Wind River are no exception.

Wind River is a real town in Wyoming, that houses the Wind River Indian Reservation. And that Reservation takes centre stage here, when a Native American girl called Natalie (Chow) is found dead in the snow by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, Cory Lambert (Renner).

Although the official cause of death is that her lungs burst due to the extreme temperatures, she has been raped, and had obviously run through the snow in extreme conditions barefoot. Because of this, the FBI are called in, and they send agent Jane Banner (Olsen) to investigate. Not knowing the area, the people or the customs, she is forced to work with Lambert to get to the bottom of Natalie’s death.

This is at its heart a whodunnit, but it is elevated by a well-written script and thoughtful dialogue. It doesn’t ram action down your throat, but rather takes its time unravelling the story, while also highlighting the challenges faced by the community who live in the area. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, this isn’t it. Rather, this is a thoughtful crime-drama that examines the ripple effect of the crime, and not just the felony itself.

Olsen gives a fantastically understated performance as Banner, who tries to maintain a professional façade, while struggling with her emotions over the case. Renner is suitably gruff and grizzly on the outside, but this belies what is going on underneath the surface, and up until the final moments he is still revealing layers of the character.

Although not gripping in the traditional sense of the word, this will draw you in, and affect you on many levels. It’s quite visceral, and will appeal to your most basic human emotions. It’s the kind of movie that makes you uncomfortable, and that you find yourself thinking about long after the credits have rolled.

This may not leave you with a sense of catharsis, but you won’t be disappointed that you saw it.

In Cinemas Now!

 

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