Did you know there’s no demographic for missing North American Indian women? I didn’t either until I saw this downbeat thriller.
A teenager called Natalie is found dead on a deserted reservation. FBI agent Jane (Elizabeth Olsen) and wildlife tracker Cory (Jeremy Renner) want to find out how it happened.
An autopsy reveals she’s been raped. The cause of death is given as pulmonary haemorrhage but she was really a dead woman walking when she went out into sub-zero temperatures to escape her abductors on the night of the incident.
Jane wants the investigation into her demise upgraded to murder. Her passion for the truth is appreciated but this Vegas girl has to learn to appreciate the sensitivities of a tightly-knit community. Cory has more immediate empathy. He lives there.
The trail to Natalie’s murderer – or murderers – becomes more complex after a stand-off develops between the police and a group of oil company security guards. Everyone pulls guns on everyone else like in a Quentin Tarantino movie.
The red herring does nothing for the film except confuse an already confused plot further. A bloodbath ensues. Game on.
It’s an interesting film. There are a lot of pregnant silences and lingering stares. We get horrendous violence and deep sensitivity. The mix somehow works. It’s the directorial debut of writer Taylor Sheridan, forming the conclusion of his ‘frontier’ trilogy.
He asks his cast members to choke on their emotions. This is unfortunate. We needed a meltdown, especially from Renner. He’s a good actor but he lacks star power. Olsen is good too but sometimes it’s hard to know where her head is at. One scene has her smiling after a tragedy.
Wind River is as cold and passionate as the dawn. Can one have too much underplaying? I think so. Cory has lost a daughter in similar circumstances to Natalie. The scene where he recalls this is even restrained. It’s a pity Clint Eastwood – an actor Sheridan really likes – was too old to play the role. He’d have taken it to the cleaners.
It’s still a challenging film. You get sucked into its ambience. At times I thought it took itself too seriously but it’s a mood-piece so it gets away with it. Just about.
Sheridan uses a languorous style to convey the slow pace of life. Evil lurks behind the rough beauty of the landscape. Imagine Yeats’ “murderous innocence”.
Ultimately it’s a film about survival. Nature is cruel and human beings crueller. You stay alive by being stronger than the enemy. Outlasting it, second-guessing it, even becoming it in Cory’s case when he consigns one of Natalie’s killers to a fate similar to her own. Revenge isn’t only sweet here; it’s endorsed.
Wind River won’t exactly make you dance with delight but it has a catharsis in its dying fall. A tenuous resignation accompanies the bruised souls who inhabit this blood-soaked land.
Very Good ****