Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s Cannes award-winning directorial debut WIND RIVERis an enthralling watch.
Sometimes it’s just a question of fate. From what I’ve read, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan was planning to reunite with his Hell or High Water star Chris Pine for his directorial debut WIND RIVER due to his first choice Jeremy Renner being unavailable shooting Arrival. And then as Pine became involved in Wonder Woman, Renner’s schedule opened up and the rest as they say is history – or fate.
That’s because Renner’s is a bravura performance – possibly his finest yet – which will have you gripped throughout Sheridan’s chilling mystery, as we see his seasoned tracker Cory Lambert wrestle with his own past whilst trying to solve the murder of a young Native American woman in his Wyoming wilderness.
Echoes of the loss his own daughter a short time previously, reverberate at every turn and look to shatter his tough exterior. It’s a wonderfully strong but sensitive performance that seems effortlessly delivered.
The shocking murder that Lambert becomes committed to solving starts with a frantic moonlit escape across the snow by 18 year-old Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Asbille). Running for her life but from we don’t know who or what, it’s a striking opening. When Lambert discovers her frozen body on a routine hunt for wolves, the case soon has the FBI on the scene. But it’s more than possible that the bureau aren’t that concerned about finding the killer, as they’ve sent the relatively inexperienced agent Jane Banner to investigate.
Played by Renner’s fellow Avenger Elizabeth Olsen, Jane looks more than a little out of her depth on first viewing but not unlike Sheridan’s other FBI heroine Kate Macer from Sicario, Jane possesses an inner steel that makes her no pushover. You initially think she’s wanting to prove herself to everyone she meets, from Cory to the fabulous Graham Greene’s wily police chief Ben, or Natalie’s grieving father (another superb performance from Hell or High Water’s Gil Birmingham) but she’s actually just wanting to be respected and on equal footing with all the men in this very male environment. Sheridan achieved the same in his script for Sicario and it’s no less tellingly illustrated here.
Finding Natalie’s killer takes Cory, Jane and Ben on a violent journey across the reservation, which culminates in a stunning sequence at an oil drilling camp that not only includes a Reservoir Dogs-like stand-off but also a very clever flashback, anchored by another great cameo from Jon Bernthal. If you’ve seen Sicario, you may think you know what’s coming but let me tell you, Sheridan is not a writer to repeat himself and the result is thrillingly executed.
WIND RIVER is the final part of Sheridan’s American Frontier trilogy, following Sicario and Hell or High Water and the text that’s displayed on screen after the film’s emotional last scene will stay with you long after you’ve finished watching. See this.