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Wind River Movie Review

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About a week ago, I probably wasn’t going to check this movie out. Then I realized that it was Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut. He’s not a known director, but he has written two of my favorite movies of the past two years with Hell or High Water and Sicario. Though he wasn’t nominated for Sicario, he was nominated for Hell or High Water. He lost to Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea, but that doesn’t detract from just how great Sheridan’s screenplay was, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he received his fair share of votes in that category. Like I said, once I found out that he was attached to this, I was on-board. Let’s talk about Wind River!

Wind River is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan and stars Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, and Gil Birmingham. When a young woman is found dead and bloody in the thick of the snowy mountain range on the Wind River Indian Reservation, local police must team up with the FBI and a local tracker/hunter to find out exactly what happened leading up to her death.

As with both Sicario and Hell or High Water, the dialogue in this film is fantastic. I’ll never forget Taylor Sheridan saying that he is “allergic to exposition.” I don’t always think that exposition is a bad thing. In fact, there are many times where it’s a good thing, and it’s definitely helpful when it comes to storytelling. In this world, however, we’re thrown right into the mix and never given the exposition because it isn’t necessary. We don’t need to be spoon-fed character depth through dialogue. Just by jumping right into this mix and understanding each character on a personal level, I felt connected to each person I saw on-screen. I also thought each performance was extremely effective. A lot of times we see Jeremy Renner in a film and take notice that he makes one of the best supporting characters in the film. In this case, I wouldn’t necessarily say that he’s a lead, but he definitely has more than a supporting role in Wind River, and I thought he killed it. I don’t know what it is, but Jeremy Renner just looks right when he’s holding a rifle. He looks so comfortable with these scenes, and I completely buy into him being an expert marksman and tracker. I also love stories about detail-oriented characters. Renner’s character is always looking at this case from a different angle and assessing his observations, and through this character Sheridan is able to tell a detail-oriented story. Elizabeth Olsen was also great in the movie as an outsider and an admittedly very flawed character. What I loved about her character is that despite being vastly imperfect, she never mopes about difficulty or whines about how tough her job is. She enlists in the help of surrounding people and uses that help as best she can, and she truly cares about doing her job correctly and with good in-mind. I also love that Sheridan is telling another story about a group of people who aren’t often acknowledged in Hollywood. That’s one of the reasons Hell or High Water garnered such high praise, and he did it again with Wind River. This time he actually tells us this directly right before we cut to the credits, and it’s always awesome to see a movie go for a purpose and a goal that affects the real world.

There is a point in this story where everything comes to a head and becomes something much different from what it previously was. I was enjoying playing the guessing game and looking for clues right alongside the characters, but at a certain point it goes a completely different direction and the game is over. What I guess this issue leads me to is a bit of a disappointing reveal. I won’t say that the reveal and everything following isn’t entertaining and sensical, but it’s revealed too quickly and shifts tones too quickly to fully satisfy my hunger that was created by the first two acts of the film.

Overall, Wind River is yet another great movie from Taylor Sheridan, and three screenplays later he has become one of my favorite writers in the business. His dialogue is so compelling and detailed without spoon-feeding the audience or treating us like we’re dumb. Again, he throws us right into the mix without much set-up or build-up, and it works. We instantly connect to these characters and understand the issues they deal with in their setting, and Sheridan once again took on a setting and place in the country that doesn’t get much attention in the entertainment industry. If you’ve loved the modern-day aspects of the Western genre that Sheridan brought to Sicario and Hell or High Water, Wind River is definitely worth a look. If you love the moral battle in either of those films, Wind River is definitely worth a look. Though it feels familiar stylistically, just as it should coming from a singular artist, it’s still very different through settings, issues, and the humanity given to the characters, so it does feel very fresh. I’m going to give Wind River an 8.2/10.

Will you be seeing Wind River this weekend? Comment down in the comment section and let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

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Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at movies@pulseradio.fm