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Wind River (2017) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier 

Wind River.png

Director: Taylor Sheridan
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Stars: Kelsey Asbille, Jeremy Renner, Julia Jones, Elizabeth Olsen

Plot:  A veteran tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service helps to investigate the murder of a young Native American woman, and uses the case as a means of seeking redemption for an earlier act of irresponsibility which ended in tragedy.

Running Time: 1 hour 47 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 87%   Audience 90%

Why I Watched This: Well look at the 5 from Rotten Tomatoes, it had huge buzz on the festival circuit and the trailer looked good as well.

Random Thoughts: One thing that I should mention is that of course Renner and Olsen are also in the MCU and have done Avenger movies to together but here’s something I knew that but never once thought about during the movie.

Writer Director Taylor Sheridan is on a roll and now that he’s directing he could be a huge player in the near future if he can keep the quality up.

What I Liked: First off this is a very well made movie, top to bottom it’s one of those films that grabs you keeps you in the moment.  I was very happy to find out for myself that the buzz was earned.  This is not only as well written, directed and acted film but an adult film, and I don’t mean language or violence I mean theme and approach.  The film is taunt but it never feels like just a thriller there’s just too much going on.

This might be a little overblown but I think this is Jeremy Renner’s best work, he’s so good here, he never over plays, he never goes for the big moment he plays it small he plays in mostly inside of himself.  He does some great work here with facial expression and his eyes, he’s a damaged man, a man who lost something and he’ll never get it back but yet he goes on and I think that one point is what makes this film special.  We’ve seen a ton of movie about grieve and a lot of time there used as plot points or to show why the lead is the way he is here we see a man who had dealt with something and is living his life and even though the case he’s walked into hit’s home he knows it’s not about him it’s about another family and the scenes where he talks to the father are some of the films best.  The best thing about Renner’s performance is that it feels real it doesn’t feel like showy or Oscar bait.

While we’re talking acting give credit to Elizabeth Olsen cause her role is that of the outsider and we really don’t learn much about her but she breaths life into an underwritten role and does really well. Also nice to see the great Graham Greene, so good and so underused he gets a good role here and he fits in very well, that’s the thing with the film the tone and the structure work very well, this film in almost all areas feels like a well oiled machine. I have to also give credit to Taylor Sheridan he pulled off a rare thing he made a thriller that didn’t seem cheesy or exploitive and a drama that didn’t feel like a cliched melodrama.  I’ve said a lot of good things about this film but I have one more and that this is a very good thriller, it’s tense and it has real stakes and you care what happens to these people and yes the location is great and it does well cold you get the scope of the place.

What I Didn’t Like: There’s not much I have two things one is a nitpick and one is bigger and maybe the only flaw for me in the film.  It’s the finale the reveal of the bad guys, this just didn’t feel right, these villains didn’t feel like real people, they were monsters and we know nothing of them and they go way over the top, I mean they did what they did because why?  Plus there’s more than one so all these guys are monsters, I would have bought if they weren’t thrown out at the end and honestly we know nothing of them, they’re pretty much just stock bad guys who do bad things cause they’re bad.  For a film so well written I excepted more. The other point is that in the end shootout a lot of people are killed and they’re not brought  up and we don’t see the aftermath this film is about lost and a bunch of people lost they’ve lives for this case and we moved on pretty fast to get to our two main characters.

Final Thoughts:  It’s a good film, not perfect but close.  I’ll also give credit for keeping the film under 2 hours and for keeping the pace and tension up.  It’s a must watch.

Rating: 8/10

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Wind River (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

Wind River

Director: Taylor Sheridan
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Stars: Kelsey Asbille, Jeremy Renner, Julia Jones, Elizabeth Olsen

Wind River is a film I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a number of months. In theory, a neo-western with some thriller/mystery thrown in is right up my street. Taylor Sheridan, the man responsible for Sicario and Hell or High Water’s great scripts, had written it and that probably played a large part in my anticipation. His writing talents are still undeniable, but he’s no Denis Villenueve (Sicario) in the directors chair. That’s not a scathing criticism as such because there’s not many who are.

In terms of story, it focuses on Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) for the most part. He’s a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent (a fancy term for a hunter/scout) who’s out tracking a livestock mauling lion and its cubs for his in-laws when he finds the frozen body of Natalie Henson (Kelsey Chow); a young, eighteen year old woman. Now, gruesome as it is, that in itself wouldn’t be so mysterious. Until you factor in that she’s discovered six miles from the nearest settlement, without proper gear (it’s Wyoming in the winter), barefoot, bloodied and seemingly having been raped.

The investigation into the murder begins in earnest when FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olson), an inexperienced rookie based in Las Vegas, is sent out to determine whether the case is a homicide. She quickly finds herself completely unprepared for the wintery conditions she encounters or even able to make her way around the vast mountainous area (how did she become a special agent?), which leads to her enlisting Cory for his scouting skills and extensive knowledge of the land. And off they go, through an autopsy, on many a beautifully shot snow speeder journey, a tense shootout and a raid on a drug den, slowly uncovering the details of what happened. Emphasis on slowly.

Jeremy Renner is a fine actor and one that I really admire. He was fantastic in last years Arrival and he’s every bit as good in Wind River. It’s very much his film, the plot revolves around Cory, and of course, when it comes to finally apprehending the killer it’s him that grabs the bull by the horns. Cory is something of a tragic figure and the personal tragedy revealed in the middle of the film adds a degree of poignancy to his arc, that along with the personal connection to Natalie’s family, fuels his desire to see revenge meted out.

I was incredibly disappointed with Elizabeth Olson’s role in this film. I expected her to be the Josh Brolin or Del Toro from Sicario, the Ben Foster or Jeff Bridges from Hell or High Water. I.e. A meaty supporting role that was in someway meaningful. Sadly though, in terms of story or a meaningful role, she had neither, very little to work with and was largely portrayed as something of an incompetent irrelevance. A point only underlined by the ending when she’s manoeuvred out the way.

Gil Birmingham had little more than an extended cameo, but managed to put plenty of emotion into the few scenes he had and I felt genuine sadness for the characters loss. A loss further exacerbated by his only son turning to drugs. I’ll mention Bernthal purely because he’s the man and kicked the shit out of three or four guys single handedly, but it was the briefest of cameos.

So what exactly led to my earlier negative appraisal of Sheridan’s directing? Firstly, I felt that the pacing was out, especially in the first half and it took far too long to find and apprehend those responsible for what was a brutal murder. The reveal of the killer and what actually happened felt rushed, came in the final half hour and justice wasn’t served until practically the final scene. I did enjoy the scene nonetheless. Thematically, it definitely had a similar vibe going on to Hell or High Water with its frankly brutal analysis of modern U.S. life, this time focusing on an Indian reservation, but the decision to delve into that for the first hour or so definitely had an adverse effect on the pacing, something that was a real strength of the former.

Ultimately, I did enjoy Wind River and it was a solid enough film with a brilliant performance from Renner. The script was solid enough and it continued Sheridan’s highlighting of the disenfranchised elements of modern society. The frustratingly slow burn nature of the story for half the film, chronic underuse of Olson and poor pacing let it down in the end though.

Still, I’d certainly recommend giving it a watch.

Rating: 3/5