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With: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbille, James Jordan
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 107
Date: 08/11/2017

Wind River (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Race Tracking

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan makes his directorial debut with yet another smart, solid crime movie that, while not without its flaws, makes excellent use of open spaces and haunting quiet.

In Wind River, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) works in the freezing mountains of Wyoming as a tracker and hunter, stopping wild animals from killing livestock. On a nearby Indian reservation, he discovers the body of a teen girl. An FBI agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), is called in and it is determined that the girl was raped and tried to run, barefoot, across the freezing snow.

Working with the local sheriff, Ben (Graham Greene), Lambert and Banner try to figure out what happened. At first, events point toward the girl's boyfriend, but things are not as they seem. At the same time, Lambert deals with the loss of his own daughter, and his relationship with his ex-wife, an American Indian, and his mixed-race young son, as well as his friendship with the dead girl's father, Martin (Gil Birmingham).

Sheridan wrote two of the sharpest of recent crime stories, Sicario and Hell or High Water, and now he adds Wind River to that list. All three movies are set in lawless communities, like modern-day Westerns; this one uses its snowbound Wyoming passages to suggest that, if the characters go poking near danger, no one is coming to the rescue. A haunting score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis helps set the tone.

The restrained, stoic nature of the characters can make the movie feel like it has skipped over certain details, simply because some things are not discussed, but it's easy to forgive a movie that favors mood over chatty dialogue.

Wind River gets into controversial territory by telling an American Indian story with two white leads, but at least it's a well-told, intelligent, and respectful story, and the characters are interesting in and of themselves. They don't feel obligatory. And, as with his last two movies, Sheridan has something to say about the world with this one, and he says it with compassion and without preaching.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release features a fine, strikingly chilly video transfer, and a strong, bold audio track to match. The only extras are about 3 minutes of deleted scenes, and a 10-minute "behind the scenes video gallery." A director's commentary track would have been welcome. Either way, I hope people discover this unsung gem.

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