In its fifth week in release, Wind River finally cracked the top three on the box office charts. This little-seen gem has been expanding into more and more theaters nationwide and audiences seem to be taking notice. It stars Jeremy Renner as veteran game tracker and Elizabeth Olsen as an FBI agent in over head while investigating an apparent murder on the Wind River Native American Reservation in Wyoming.
Renner delivers what may be the best performance of his career as Cory Lambert, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agent who specializes in tracking predators in the harsh and unforgiving Wyoming landscape. While hunting a mountain lion responsible for killing livestock, he stumbles upon the body of a frozen young woman who is a resident of the Wind River Reservation. Elizabeth Olsen plays Jane Banner, a rookie FBI agent called in to investigate the crime. Unfamiliar with the terrain or its people, she enlists the help of Renner's character to assist her in solving the murder.
Wind River marks the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, the writer behind Sicario and Hell or High Water. Much like those films, Sheridan is able to create such a vivid sense of place and setting that the characters feel absolutely real. While the situations they're put in are incredibly dramatic and tense, the characters and their actions remain rooted in a deep sense of reality.
Above all else, the film is a character-driven mystery, a crime drama that takes its time setting up its lead characters and isolated setting, while never taking too long to unfold. Sheridan proves he's not only one of the best writers working in Hollywood right now, but also a very capable director. He wrings every ounce of bitter cold out of Wind River's bleak and barren setting that Wyoming itself becomes a character. But despite being a well-acted, tightly written, and exceptionally directed film, Wind River won't be for everyone. It's peppered with moments of unflinching violence and unsettling material.
For those who enjoy Coen-brothers style modern-noirs like No Country for Old Men, or the previously mentioned Hell or High Water, Wind River will not disappoint. It's probably a little too dark for the Academy's taste, but out of the releases we've seen so far this year, this one ranks among the best and I do believe it's worthy of awards consideration. It's a twisty, visceral crime thriller that will likely stay with you after the credits finish rolling. I give Wind River an A-.