Review: In Wind River, Taylor Sheridan again demonstrates a prowess he once showcased on writing tenure for Sicario and Hell or High Water. His painstaking flair for slick and immaculate script—with penchant to coherence and symmetrical storyline—is utterly exquisite. With Sheridan running for both writing and directing gigs, we finally get to see his full-creative-control mode; and, lucky you, it’s taut and clever as you might imagine.
The title refers to a snow-covered Native American reservation in Wyoming, which becomes the setting of this film. It’s the place where a hunter, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), resides. As he tracks a wild mountain lion who preys on local cattles, the all-white-camouflaged hunter accidentally finds a local girl’s body… dead and stark. For the case, FBI sends rookie Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who immediately team up with Lambert to investigate it.
Presenting a different terrain for his methodical formula, Sheridan makes Wind River a more profound and stark journey of personal redemption compared to his earlier works. As always, smart and eloquent dialogues become his sharpest tool to deliver the story. To accompany that, Sheridan also devices explicit symbolism to convey clear judgments on how the story is going. With that, you can see clearly that the snow-laden setting along with the sub-zero temperature means more than a background. It’s an imagery of the harsh life people in Wind River and also the cold story of a dead girl. Now, you’ll wonder what the mountain lion symbolizes, too.
Each pivotal character has a completely developed story to elaborate alongside the main arc. Renner’s Lambert is a complex protagonist, with a complicated past which Wind River gradually unravels. There’s a certain quality and motivation which fuels his involvement in this case. In delivering Sheridan’s most pivotal character, Renner gives one of his heartfelt performance following Del Toro in Sicario and Brolin in Hell or High Water. In settling with this character, Sheridan finds his penchant of creating mirroring effect and parallel events, which become his trademark.
Olsen might be a little less influential to the storyline compared to Renner. However, her Fed agent character is definitely a solid piece which moves the story and an effective catalyst to Renner’s character. Her achievement might noticeably lead the story into bleaker zone, including her involvement in a brutal standoff in the middle of the story.
At some points, Sheridan’s script seems to hold back some information only to add more depth to character. While the move might seems ineffective in pacing, but it’s deeply affecting given the story’s theme revealed at the ice-cold ending. Yet, again, the pace has been reflected in the story’s main setting—a nearly soulless, freezing snow plain.
As the story ends, there’s this stark feeling lefts. While there’s some hiccups in his directing, Sheridan’s neat script could deliver his taut and cold thriller with heart. Wind River has made a way to Sheridan’s best search for poetic justice.
Wind River (2017)