Star – Jeremy Renner
My Rating ****
Genre – Crime > Drama
Run Time – 1 hr 47 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – U.S.A
Awards – 10 Wins & 23 Nominations
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So Wind River, staring Jeremy Renner, the man who got dropped from not one but two of the most lucrative franchise in Hollywood, Bourne and The Avengers. I must admit he is a bit short for a lead action hero although I thought he did OK in Bourne and the mistake was to bring back the films without Matt Damon. The bow and arrow guy will have to find someone else for the suit in Marvel. That aside he is rather good in this gritty murder mystery drama, based on true events on the Wind River Indian reservation in the United States. These Native Indian jurisdictions up in the mountains or on the vast arid plains can be quite lawless and some alarming crime rates recorded. I am surprised Donald Trump hasn’t been all over this to win votes. As he is driving pipelines all through these guys’ wigwams he is not exactly a vote winner there.
In the Wind River reservation – the seventh biggest in the United States – featured in the film there were 12 unsolved murders of young women on a reservation of just 6,000 people in the last ten years. And that’s just the unsolved cases. It’s very hard to get in there and police these communities. A Supreme Court ruled back in 1978 that tribes could be stripped of the right to arrest and prosecute non-natives who commit crimes on native land. If neither victim nor ‘perps’ are Native Indians, a county or state police officer must make the arrest on res land. If the villain is non-native and the victim is, only an FBI agent can operate inside the res, the case with Wind River. A tribal police officer can make the arrest, but the case must still go to federal court outside the res. Because of this legal quicksand, many criminals go unpunished for serious crimes.
Oscar nominated Tyler Sheridan of the screenplay of the rather indifferent Hell or High Water and the writer of the much better Sicario, is behind the camera this time around for his third American frontier crime trilogy screenplay. The plodding TV actor has found a true home. The boy can write.
Kelsey Asbille … Natalie
Renner … Cory Lambert
Julia Jones … Wilma
Teo Briones … Casey
Apesanahkwat … Dan Crowheart
Graham Greene … Ben
Elizabeth Olsen … Jane Banner
Tantoo Cardinal … Alice Crowheart
Eric Lange … Dr. Whitehurst
Gil Birmingham … Martin
Althea Sam … Annie
Tokala Black Elk … Sam Littlefeather
Martin Sensmeier … Chip
Tyler Laracca … Frank
It’s a stunning but beautiful winter in the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Whilst expert tracker and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Renner) is out shooing rogue wolves, with reservation permission, he discovers the frozen body of a half dressed 18-year-old woman in the snow, Natalie Henson (Kelsey Asbille), showing signs of being attacked but seven miles from anywhere and barefoot. Was she dumped here or was she running away from someone? The FBI are informed and special agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is assigned to the case, mainly because she was the nearest agent available to the reservation, her beat being Las Vegas, Nevada and so not exactly dressed for the occasion.
Jane settles in and quickly learns from Natalie’s father, Martin (Gil Birmingham), that his daughter was dating a new guy, but he does not know the man’s name or whereabouts. The autopsy is grim, showing trauma and sexual violence and confirmed the girl had actually died from exposure so running from something. However, the medical examiner is not able to call the death a homicide, therefore Jane not able to legally call for an FBI investigative unit. It’s up to her now.
Cory Lambert: Luck don’t live out here.
Cory senses the agent will need her help with the terrain and offers his services as a tracker. He discovers that Natalie’s boyfriend is a security guard at a nearby oil drilling site. The next day Cory Tracks down Matt but now a frozen body, nude up in the snow fields and the wildlife already having 24 hours at him, the body count rising. This investigation stirs memories in the tracker, telling Jane about his daughter’s death three years earlier, Corey married to a Native Indian, his kid’s body also discovered in the snow, and the same age, following a boozy teenager’s party. All roads seem to lead to the oil drilling site as they head up there with some local Indian cops to ask some questions of the security detail.
Cory Lambert: Wolves don’t kill unlucky deer. They kill the weak ones.
It’s a sloooow burner folks. About 45 minutes in and not a lot has happened. We have been introduced to the main characters and the dark mood is set as the environment closes in on our main protagonists. Through flashback we begin to learn why the girl dies and who might have done it. Then we have this big dramatic event as the tension rises and the film earns its fourth star. It’s one of those where everything fits into place at that moment.
It’s enjoyable though and we are left guessing on Renner’s character as Olsen drops into that female but tough FBI agent in heels stereotype Homeland and Clare Danes born on to us.
Wind River’s strength is its silent and foreboding mood up in the beautiful but hostile snowy mountains. Every crack of a stick or creeping pine tree shadow is potential menace as out two hero’s unpick the ghastly crime in the sacred frozen Indian land where the spirits of the past look down disapprovingly. The actual crime is pretty brutal on screen to and some powerful scenes in the movie towards the end, if somewhat unrealistically and veering violently away from the actual true story. But movies need drama to keep them moving forward and this hits that button at just the right time.
Imdb.com –7.7 /10.0 (158,234votes)
Rottentomatos.com –87 % critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 73% critic’s approval