So… the dark and gritty adventures of Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch? Shut up and take my money! What is it about a snow setting that makes a movie look so damn appealing? Maybe it’s because I’m from suburban Los Angeles and snow is akin to the Loch Ness monster, or Atlantis… or the impeachment of an asshole President. I gotta say that this movie looks really good. The movie is toting around how it’s the same writer of SICARIO (2015) and HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016). I can’t claim to be in the same band wagon as everyone else who loved SICARIO, but I did really like HELL OR HIGH WATER. Whatever I feel for those movies, you can almost guarantee that this film is going to be incredibly well-written, slower-paced, but atmospheric as hell.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jeremy Renner (THE HOUSE , ARRIVAL , MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION , and upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR , and the as-of-yet titled or planned release-date sequel to his Jason Bourne film) and Elizabeth Olsen (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR , GODZILLA , and upcoming films INGRID GOES WEST  and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR).
In support, we have Graham Greene (THE SHACK , Twilight Saga NEW MOON , and DANCES WITH WOLVES ), and possibly in a bit role, Jon Bernthal (BABY DRIVER , THE ACCOUNTANT , TV show THE WALKING DEAD, and upcoming Netflix TV show Marvel’s THE PUNISHER).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Taylor Sheridan. He’s only directed one poorly received horror film called VILE (2011), but he penned HELL OR HIGH WATER and SICARIO, and will be writing SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (2018). Co-composing the score… and performing it?… are Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, both known for Netflix’s WAR MACHINE (2017), HELL OR HIGH WATER, and THE ROAD (2009). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Richardson, known for TABLE 19 (2017), THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (2014), and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012).
Overall, I’m curious. I won’t say it’s the movie of the week that I have to see, but it’s on the list of films that I will see.
This is my honest opinion of: WIND RIVER
Set in Wyoming. Cory (Jeremy Renner) is a game hunter tasked with hunting a den of lions killing live-stock when he comes across the body of eighteen year old Natalie (Kelsey Asbille). The local police, headed by Sheriff Ben (Graham Greene), calls the FBI, who sends rookie agent Jane (Elizabeth Olsen). Cut off from any reinforcement and only a handful of officers to help with her investigation, she enlists Cory’s help to solve the case.
I think it’s best to point out a quick tidbit of information. In the beginning of the film, it’s stated that this is based on a true story. Don’t take it literal. Cory Lambert and Jane Banner are, in the context of this story, completely fictional, as is the victim, Natalie.
But make no mistake, while the movie is fictional, the events that it’s representing are absolutely not. While it’s not hard to look up this information online, I’ll save some clicking for you and give you a rundown. The Wind River reservation is real and it’s really in Wyoming. It’s also Wyoming’s only American Indian reservation. In this place, life expectancy is 49 years. Jesus Christ, humans are capable of living up to 120 years and in this place, they can’t even make it half way. This isn’t a sick accusation of weakness of course, but rather an acknowledgement of what life in this place is like. Drug addiction, poverty, an astoundingly broken justice system that makes you want to scream, blood pressure will only rise when you realize the Department of Justice determined that 84% of Native American women – and by extension Alaskan native women – experience violence and 56% experience sexual violence. Hell, the movie itself ends with a quote that will leave you sick to your stomach, “While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women.”
Here’s a couple of links that really go into everything that I just said. Check them out if you’re interested.
This movie’s importance is more subtle than you might think. Leaving the theater, yeah, I thought it was a really good movie, but something about saying “it’s a really good movie” didn’t feel right. Usually, I attribute that to me lying to myself and as I write these reviews, I usually discover something about the movie that makes me go, “oh that’s what was bugging me,” or some such crap like that. It’s pretty rare to get a situation where I start to realize it’s actually better than I thought.
But as important as it is to talk about these things, let’s talk about the actual movie itself.
Once again, I usually don’t have an ear to spot this sort of thing, but I think I’m getting better at: sound design. Here’s what I mean. The intro to Cory is basically him sniping some wolves threatening the local farmers’ live-stock. It’s pretty atmospheric in the beginning, just the wolves looking at the sheep, or goats, or whatever they were, but then out of nowhere, you just hear this thunderous BOOM. Of course, there’s a blood splatter and then a camouflaged Renner appears, making me think if this was the Hawkeye performance that he thought he was signing up for in THE AVENGERS (2012). But it’s not just this scene. The brilliance of Sheridan, and by extension, the sound effects department, guns in this movie are scary. When they’re drawn, you know shit’s gonna get real, a very similar feel that SICARIO did extremely well. When a shootout begins, you feel that immediate adrenaline rush the characters must be feeling. Your blood pressure rises, your stress level goes haywire, and every bullet leaving the chamber is like an invisible force playing baseball with your chest. They’re all completely visceral moments loaded with tension and even fear. Especially in the end, you won’t know whether to cheer or scream for your own life.
The performances are fantastic. Renner delivers arguably his best performance since THE HURT LOCKER (2008). As Cory, you see this man’s determination to make sure that justice is served the best way that can be dished out in a desolate place like Wind River and wants to prevent a family from living with the exact same pain as he does. He’s a professional, deadly, the very definition of a man you don’t fuck with. This is definitely the best performance that I’ve seen out of Olsen, which is saying something because I think she’s great as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel films. Jane is clearly a rookie FBI agent who’s only in this situation because there was no one else closer to send in and she was in Vegas. Her intro scene is showing up in a standard thin-ass jacket, freezing her tits off, but what I love most about her character is how well-handled she is as a character. I can see a character like this, rookie agent who’s fighting everyone for control and doesn’t know the first thing about fuck all. They’ve existed before and they’re frustrating and hamper a movie like no one’s business. But that’s not Jane. She quickly learns to adapt and isn’t afraid to ask for help. She won’t hesitate to show force and isn’t incompetent in a fight, but also isn’t some trigger-happy nutcase. She’ll try to diffuse a situation, proving that she can be in control when it needs her to be.
Overall, this is a film dripping with chilling atmosphere, and I’m not just talking about the snowy weather. It’s a captivating movie that will make you dread what these characters will face next, but you can’t help keeping your eyes glued to see how they’ll get out of it. As amazingly executed as the film is, it’s even better knowing that it’s shining a light on an issue that Americans probably overlook too much, or not even know is a thing at all, making it a must-watch. If it isn’t obvious, I highly recommend this film.
My honest rating for WIND RIVER: 5/5