Wind River, the newest thriller from the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water, is really high on my list of films to see right now and may even be in consideration for my best of 2017. Featuring a strong cast led by Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, this crime drama marks the finale in a trilogy of similarly themed films from writer/director Taylor Sheridan.
When skilled U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, Cory Lambert (Renner), goes to investigate the killing of a steer by mountain lions on the Wind River Indian Reservation, he soon stumbles upon a dead body. After the FBI sends rookie special agent Jane Banner (Olsen) to find answers, it is quickly apparent she is way out of her element in the snow-filled terrain of Wyoming. With the help of Lambert’s knowledge of tracking, the surrounding area, and its residents, the two work together to solve what is ultimately deemed to be a brutal murder of a local girl from the reservation.
It wasn’t until after seeing Sicario and Hell or High Water that Taylor Sheridan fully came on my radar. Sheridan started out as an actor, who many may remember as Deputy Chief of Police, David Hale, on three seasons of the hit TV show, Sons of Anarchy. At 40 years of age, Sheridan wrote his first screenplay, the highly acclaimed Sicario, a 2015 crime thriller about a FBI agent who attempts to bring down a Mexican drug cartel.
Sheridan then penned the script for what is now known as Hell or High Water, a 2016 Neo-Western crime thriller that has also received much acclaim and award nominations. Recently released is his new film, Wind River, which some are calling the third in Sheridan’s crime thriller trilogy, and which also marks his second directorial debut following his low budget horror film, Vile. It’s quite clear that Sheridan appears to have a specific style that includes “absurdly simple” character and (often times) crime driven plots, among other aspects.
Sheridan’s knack for writing and directing skillfully translates into his newest blockbuster, which may even be my favorite of his crime thrillers. Sicario is a dark and gritty thriller, whereas Hell or High Water is more of a smart, western heist with a bit of buddy comedy. Wind River makes the most out of the filmmaker’s skills by providing a similar themed humanistic drama-thriller that, like the films before it, features solid acting, eerie music, a carefully chosen setting, and the type of jaw-dropping intensity that will chill you to the bone.
While each of Sheridan’s films has different directors, it’s amazing how similar they are in style. Like Sicario, Wind River’s pacing can be slow burning to say the least, which is well balanced by several shockingly violent scenes. There are multiple plot reveals that add to the quality of the story and raise the level of emotion its characters experience throughout. It’s also nice to see some depth and range from Renner and Olsen, and there’s yet another Sicario connection in the form of casting Jon Bernthal in a small role.
Some have noted and criticized a few flaws in Sheridan’s inexperienced directing, but for me, there isn’t much to complain about. Any plot holes appear to remedy themselves as the film goes on, and while the slow pace and violence isn’t for every viewer, it’s truly an all around solidly crafted film. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that Sheridan knows how to get the most of his actors and setting, in addition to providing a simple, yet dramatic story.
If you’re a fan of Sheridan’s previous work or appreciate a good film, check out Wind River, now playing in theaters.
4 out of 5 stars.
Wind River is rated R for strong violence, rape, disturbing images and language. Running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.
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