Sons of Anarchy star Taylor Sheridan shows off some extraordinary talent in his directing debut.
Having written the scripts for Sicario and Hell or High Water, Sheridan has moved into directing with Wind River, in addition to penning the screenplay. These three films form part of the American Frontier quartet (with Soldado currently at the production stage).
Tragedy strikes twice: Jeremy Renner plays a wildlife officer who must confront personal tragedy and comfort a grieving father after stumbling upon the body of a young woman in the snow.
The title of the film is a reference to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, where most of the action takes place. Wildlife officer Cody Lambert (Jeremy Renner, Kill the Messenger) is tasked to hunt predators threatening local livestock. While out on the trail of a mountain lion, he stumbles upon the body of a young Native American woman in the snow, which brings back memories of personal tragedy. The Federal Bureau of Investigation takes the case, sending rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, Marvel Cinematic Universe) to look into it. Jane is ill-prepared for the bitter cold of the Wyoming winter, being someone who "lives in Las Vegas by way of Fort Lauderdale". She thus decides to employ Cody to help her navigate the Indian territory.
Over the next few days, the pair have had to console a grieving father, follow up leads that point to more deaths and confront a group of armed security contractors. Along the way, problems relating to the Native American population are brought to the fore, as well as uncertainty caused by overlapping law enforcement jurisdictions. Amid all these, the picturesque snow-capped mountains of Wyoming steal the show.
Renner puts in another solid performance following Kill the Messenger, playing a divorced father whose daughter died under mysterious circumstances. This makes his character all the more intent on hunting the killer of the dead woman he found. Olsen comes out on her own towards the end of the film when her character manages to defuse a tense standoff between heavily-armed security contractors and law enforcement agents. However, it is Gil Birmingham (The Twilight Saga) who evokes most sympathy as a grieving Native American father who must also deal with his daughter's recent death on top of his son's imprisonment. In fact, the plight of Native Americans has left a strong impression on Sheridan, who commented on the shameful manner the United States government had treated them. "There is nothing I can do to change the issues afflicting Indian country, but what we can do as artists - and must do - is scream about them with fists clenched," he was quoted as saying.
Wind River would certainly have some appeal to fans of westerns. It is set to be released in Perth on 10 August 2017.