DIR/WRI: Taylor Sheridan • PRO: Elizabeth A. Bell, Peter Berg, Matthew George, Basil Iwanyk, Wayne L. Rogers • DOP: Ben Richardson • ED: Gary Roach • DES: Neil Spisak • MUS: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis • CAST: Kelsey Asbille, Jeremy Renner, Julia Jones
In writing both Sicario and Hell or High Water Taylor Sheridan brought the neo-western back to life. His American Frontier Trilogy resurrected a failing genre with great critical and commercial success. Not since 2007’s No Country for Old Men has the western genre felt so invigorated and full of life. As much as a genre filled with death and despair can be that is. With Wind River Sheridan concludes his trilogy and sets a high bar for those who will undoubtedly follow him.
US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) finds the body of a young woman in the wilderness on the Wind River Native American Reservation in Wyoming. FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is called in to find the murderer and employs Lambert as a tracker. The case bares eerie similarities to Lambert’s own daughter’s death three years prior and soon a conspiracy is revealed as the isolating and freezing Wyoming winter closes in.
Wind River is unbelievably tense. So tense I’d almost have laughed had every muscle in my body not been locked. Sheridan’s big-budget debut makes great use of the expansive emptiness and claustrophobic indoors of his chosen setting. Much like his previous film’s violence explodes suddenly and is gone just as quickly. Tension burns like a dynamite cord in Wind River and that is as much thanks to the cast as it is to Sheridan’s script.
Jeremy Renner is a victim of his previous roles. His work in the likes of 28 Weeks Later, the Avengers films and The Bourne Legacy have cast him in roles he is suited for but that offer no real depth. Wind River casts him as a grieving but exceptionally knowledgeable cowboy-type. He is capable of great pain and great resourcefulness. Olsen’s Banner is out of her depth and often reliant on Lambert in the wild. She is, however, more than capable of learning on the spot and holding her own in combat. Sheridan’s characters are flawed but relatable and they form the beating heart of this film.
The supporting cast are equally excellent with desperate and lonesome turns by Gil Birmingham and Jon Bernthal. However, the greatest technical performance of the film is Ben Shepard. His camerawork is often stationery and meditative but quickly bursts into speed once the action starts moving. The lethal cold of Wyoming and the barren natural beauty of its landscape stand in stark contrast to each other while most characters are shot to look as rugged as the wilds they inhabit. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ haunting score that swells and whispers is the cherry on top of this ice-cold cake.
Wind River is one of the best films of 2017. It is pleasingly similar to Taylor Sheridan’s other work but the brutality of the near-Arctic land is a nice change from the arid aesthetics of Sicario and Hell or High Water. Few can claim to have Sheridan’s consistency as a scriptwriter as well as his talent to craft intricate yet simple stories with characters that are both pitiful and strong. Wind River is a career best for Sheridan and a masterclass in tension.
16 (See IFCO for details)
Wind River is released 8th SeptemberAugust 2017