Wind River: A Terrifying Winter Wonderland

   By Sandra Olmsted

 Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star in Wind River

Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star in Wind River

In debut director Taylor Sheridan’s testosterone-fueled thriller, Wind River, women must to saved and protected by the good and will be used and abused by the bad ones. In many ways, the Wind River is a modern black hat/white hat western because the good guys are so easy to spot. For example, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a sensitive, emotionally-scarred wildlife officer, who tracks predators and kills them when they prey on ranchers’ livestock.

While tracking a mountain lion and her two cubs through the frigid, snowy mountains, Lambert discovers the body of Natalie (Kelsey Abile), a young woman from the Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation. She lies dead in the snow, just as Lambert’s daughter did when she died several years earlier. Because Natalie’s rape and murder happened on tribal lands, the FBI is called in to assist the meager number of officers covering a vast area. Enter Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), a no-nonsense, newbie agent with definite ideas about how things should be and no concept of how they really are.


Banner quickly realizes she needs the assistance of Lambert and recruits him to help her navigate the vast spaces and Indian community. Lambert, who races over the back country on a snow mobile, isn’t Native American, but his ex-wife, son, and former in-laws are. Because he can operate in both communities, he helps smooth over Banner’s naivete and lack of cultural knowledge. Soon, a second body is discover, belonging Natalie’s boyfriend, a worker at a nearby oil rig, who had been the prime suspect.


The investigation then turns to Natelie’s brother who runs with the drug-dealing scourge of the Reservation. In the first of many tense situations, when Banner asks the police chief, Ben (Graham Greene), if they should wait for backup, she’s shocked to hear that, in this desolate land of only six police officers, “you’re on your own.”


Director Taylor exposes the problems of the Reservation as microcosm of the problems many face of not have the options they need to thrive where they are. He also ends the film with the fact that no one knows how many young Native American women are missing; however, it come out of left field and looses its effect since the only women missing in the film are found, albeit dead. It is a sobering fact, just out of context.


Taylor does makes good use of isolation and poverty and of gun play. Most thrilling is his use of Lambert whizzing through the wintry landscapes with Banner on back of his snow mobile and hanging on for dear life.


Renner turns in a stellar performance as does Olsen and Greene in comparative smaller roles. Their performances are complimented by a strong rest of the cast, especially Gil Birmingham and Tantoo Cardinal as Natalie’s bereaved parents. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ music underscores the isolation and alienation of the people of Wind River.


Wind River is an edge of your seat action thriller released by The Weinstein Company. Wind River is rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language and runs a tense, nail-biting 107 minutes. This must-see thriller is in theaters now.

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