Geek Review: Wind River

Last year, Hell or High Water made my top ten list for best movies of the year.

The writer of that film, Tyler Sheridan, has a new movie out that he both wrote and directed, Wind River.  How was it?

A bit uneven, but largely good stuff.

Set in and around the Indian reservation  of Wind River, Wyoming, the film opens with a young Native American woman, scared out of her life, fleeing into the snowy mountains.  She’s barefoot, dressed only in what looks like lightweight pajama bottoms and a winter coat that may or may not be warm enough.  As it turns out, it isn’t.  She’s found shortly thereafter by Cody Lambert (Jeremy Renner).  Cody is a hunter/tracker for the Fish and Wildlife Service, where his primary job is hunting down predators that get a taste for livestock.  He’s very good at his job.  Otherwise, he has an ex-wife, a Native American herself, he has a cordial but tense relationship with, a son he sees when he can, and generally he gets along well with the tribal sheriff and the Natives he interacts with.  When he finds the body, he calls it in and waits for the FBI to come out and do what it does, with the agent dispatched taking the form of one Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), a well-meaning, hard-charging woman who doesn’t have a lot of experience with this sort of thing but makes up for her lack of experience with a desire to bring the wrongdoers to justice.

The problem for Jane is, the victim, though obviously fleeing for her life and probably raped, died from exposure, so the M.E. can’t list homicide as the cause of death and call for more experienced reinforcements, and Sheriff Ben only has about six guys to cover a territory the size of Rhode Island.  She is quick to recruit Cody,who has his own issues involving the victim and a connection to his own past and family.  The film gradually spells out what went down with Cody, and when he finally tells his story, much of that information had already been implied anyway, but a few tidbits in there were necessary to make some sense out of a few earlier details do come out.

Renner’s fine in the role as an everyman sort who didn’t really set out to get involved in a murder investigation, but does so anyway.  He may not be much of a grief counselor, as the movie tries to make him into at times, but maybe he isn’t supposed to be.  Olsen is more a cypher as a character.  The character work and the focus on the environment mostly work well, but the more action-based sequences fall a bit flat.  The film opens with a note saying it was inspired by true events, which, if the end note is to be believed, is the fact that Native American women are the only demographic group without any statistics measuring how many of them go missing in the United States.  The movie plays a little with the tension of Native life, where the people live in poverty with little if any hope and few if any resources when things go bad, compounded by jurisdictional confusion and red tape making things worse, but the movie still has a white man at the center as the protagonist, so I’m not sure how well it pulls those ideas off.  Eight and a half out of ten symbolic mountain lion families.

tomk74

Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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