Score : 81/100
Watchable Minutes: 90/107
Trailer Comparison : The trailer for Wind River is guilty of making the movie feel more gritty and dark than it actually is. It’s meant to draw you in and does that annoying thing where it matches a sound effect with every guns hot. If the trailer interests you, watch this movie.
Movie or Film : Wind River has a worthwhile theme of American Indian oppression and criminals escaping justice but both of them take the back seat to the action and sweeping landscape shots. If the movie focused a bit more on one thing and toned down the action / seriousness it could fit into the film category.
- Run time : 1 hr 47 minutes
- Studio : Lantern Entertainment
- Director : Taylor Sheridan
- Where to Watch : Prime Video ($)
Cory Lambert, a US Fish and Wildlife services agent, stumbles across the body of a young American Indian woman deep in the woods and far from home. Murders committed on reservations are federal crimes and the F.B.I. is forced to become involved. Agent Jane Banner is the lone agent assigned to assist reservation police. Out of her depth, Agent Banner asks for Lambert to assist her in solving the latest murder in the last great American Frontier.
I don’t remember ever hearing about this movie during 2017 when it released. I had just moved out of my parents house for the first time and moved to a city with an awesome theater I frequently went to. I don’t remember a single poster or pre roll commercial for it at all. Not one. When I stumbled across this movie, I was surprised to see who was in it and who made it. I had just watched Sicario just a few months earlier and feel that this movie would have benefited greatly from the theater experience. For those that don’t know, Sicario is another Taylor Sheridan movie and all time great from Dennis Villneuve. Had I known Wind River existed at the time, I probably would have been there opening night.
Wind River is a tale about the harshness of the last great American frontier and the people who live there. It’s a brutal look at the reality of that environment and what can happen when people think nobody else is watching. Crimes of opportunity without fear of prosecution are rampant in this land, or so the movie would have you believe. The character situations and backstories were interesting and realistic without much suspension of disbelief. As Robert Ebert put it (and as my dad reminded me), “Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph” (Ebert, 1984). This is particularly applicable for Wind River. The villain that was chosen for a movie that highlights American Indian injustice, while incredibly obvious, was portrayed differently than what one would expect so I give it some points there. The overall resolution to the story was good and the final few scenes were intense and uncomfortable.
Taylor Sheridan is an awesome writer, but a so so director. This movie was his directorial debut and it showed. Not everybody can make a perfect movie on their first try and this wasn’t bad by any means, it just had a few clunky moments that a more experienced director probably could have teased out a bit better. I appreciate the care he put into this movie (and all his movies) to not just focus on the action. He does put in some good themes that are important, but they don’t go all the way across the finish line. At the end of the day, you have to put butts in seats and sell tickets or you won’t work in Hollywood for very long.
The acting in Wind River felt genuine and compassionate about the subject matter. Jeremy Renner played an empathetic character in his portrayal of Cory Lambert. Elizabeth Olsen was believable as Jane Banner. Neither role felt forced and these two actors are quite familiar with each other from working together on other projects. I think their chemistry from previous movies definitely helped them bring this movie to life. The rest of the cast did a fine job, but didn’t really have too much of a splash on the movie. This was definitely the Olsen / Renner show.
The audio / visual pieces of this movie are where I take the most points off. There were some iffy CGI moments that contrasted heavily with the grand sweeping shots of the frozen wasteland. Nothing takes me out of a movie faster than bad CGI. I found the score to be forgettable and uninteresting. The sound design left something to be desired as well because I had to have captions on the whole time. I could not for the life of me hear what they were saying. I tried it on multiple devices and used headphones and earbuds to no avail.
With all that said, Wind River is a good movie. I gave it an 81 as my immediate score. As I write this a few weeks after viewing, my score hasn’t changed. But this is a movie I don’t see myself watching again for a long time, if ever. It’s got the action and the plot, but falls just a bit short. If anything, this movie just makes me want to go watch Sicario or Hell or High Water again instead. Side note – all three of these movies (Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River) are connected to make a trilogy, and I think I know which one is the Fredo. Overall, I can say I enjoyed it and that it’s worth watching if you have nothing else to watch and I’m very interested in what Taylor Sheridan does next.
If you like this, check out :
- The Lone Survivor
- Hell or High Water