Wind River, Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut, is a solid crime drama, not as expansive as the films of his scripts for Sicario and Hell or High Water. He doesn’t seem to be aiming as high, and that’s fine. This is the kind of movie that when you’re struggling to agree to something on VOD everyone should be okay with.
The film is set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Jeremy Renner, a worker for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (he hunts predators, hint) finds a young woman, dead. She was a friend of his teenage daughter, who died three years earlier. The young woman ran several miles, barefoot, through the snow.
Since an Indian reservation is federal land, the FBI must be brought in. That’s in the person of Elizabeth Olsen, who is not very experienced (she arrives in frigid Wyoming wearing only a windbreaker). She, the tribal police chief (a very good Graham Greene) and Renner investigate (Renner, who is not law enforcement, ends up involved because of his tracking ability).
It really isn’t much of a mystery. The law visits the trailer of three stoners and there’s some violence. Renner, tracking some mountain lions, finds a clue that isn’t even fully explained, and we see what happened to the young woman and her boyfriend before there’s a final gunfight. The film is not really a whodunit, it seems more an excuse to show the way of life of rez Indians (it’s not a pretty sight). At the end of the film, there is a P.S.A. tacked on that seems out of place, as the film didn’t seem like a polemic.
But I can’t be hard on this film. It’s not great, but there’s nothing wrong with it. In addition to Greene, there’s another good performance by Gil Birmingham as the murdered girl’s father.
Sheridan has proved himself as a screenwriter, but I need to see more from him as a director to see if he’s got the right stuff.