Movie Review: Wind River
Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a fishing and wildlife official who works on the Wind River Indian Reservation, located in Wyoming. His job entails hunting the predatory wildlife that endabger the local population. On a hunt in the desolate and harsh winter environment, Cory discovers the dead body of a young girl he knew. She was barefoot, and miles from any signs of civilization. Local police contact the F.B.I. who sends agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to assist with the investigation.
Jane Banner quickly realizes that she is out of her element so gets Cory Lambert directly involved. Together, the two must find out what happened to the young girl and who was responsible for her death. They must do so without significant backup in a land where rules do not apply and most criminals are never found.
The Pros & Cons
The Cowboy & The Reservation (+8pts)
Private Security (-2pts)
The Mystery (+6pts)
The Reveal (-4pts)
Jeremy Renner & Elizabeth Olsen (+10pts)
Pro: The Cowboy & The Reservation (+8pts)
The setting, of this film, is the Wind River Indian Reservation. It is a vast area that is located in Wyoming and is home to a, mostly, Native American population. This film does a great job of depicting the size of this reservation as well as its harsh conditions and desolate mountains.
I also really enjoyed the Native American culture in this filn. It is rare that modern Native American communities are focused on in major films. Doing so here made the film much more interesting and left me wanting to know more about the community and what they deal with regularly.
Then there is Jeremy Renner's character, Cory Lambert. He is a hunter/tracker and works as a wildlife official on the reservation. He is a park ranger of sorts, but most of his job consists of hunting predatory animals that affect the people on the reservation. He is one of the few people, living on the reservation, who is not Native American but he has an incredible amount of respect from the locals. Cory Lambert is, in this film, a gun wielding protector of the reservation. On the reservation, rules do not matter so Cory Lambert has to take the law into his own hands. In that respect, he is an outlaw and an avenger (I understand the hidden joke here).
Cory Lambert, and his gun, gives way for a great action sequence towards the end of the film. He is a badass cowboy and the cold, harsh environment of Wyoming is his Wild West.
Con: Private Security (-2pts)
Alright, these guys were idiots. I will get into their ridiculous motives later. For now I just want to talk about the performances. These actors gave performances that, on the surface, were not bad but analyze their roles in the film and you will realize how terrible these performances were. This movie is all about the mystery. It is about the two main characters trying to find answers and it is about the audience going along for the ride and trying to figure out the answers along with the main characters.
Fast forward to the drilling site. The main characters go to the drilling site for answers, as soon as a member of the private security opens their mouth, I knew he was a villain. That is not me saying I am some movie genius that cracked the code. No. Every member of the private security delivered every line of dialogue while maintaining a cocky and creepy smile. Did these guys turn out to be the villains or was this a deliberate misdirect by the filmmakers? You will have to see the movie to find out, but what I will tell you is that the acting by the private securmitt force was way too over-the-top and it just did not fit the tone of this film. These characters belong in a cheesy action film, not a dramatic character piece.
Pro: The Mystery (+6pts)
The best part of this film is the mystery. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) tracks the unknown criminal like he would any predator. He starts from the beginning and tracks the person(s) responsible by following their trail through everywhere they have been. Along the way he discovers various clues that bring him closer to the truth. This is the fun of the film, following Cory Lambert as he uncovers the truth.
Con: The Reveal (-4pts)
While the mystery was fairly entertaining to watch, this film loses steam with the reveal. The filmmakers really seemed to struggle to capitalize on the build up to this film. I do not want to give anything away, so I will be as vague as possible here. Throughout the film, the number one suspect is spoken of, but never shown. Cory Lambert goes through his trail of mystery, then right as he gets a final clue, the film gives us a flashback that tells us who did it and how it happened. I totally believe that he could have figured out who was responsible, but I do not buy that he knew how severe the situation was. At best, he knew the next person(s) they needed to talk to.
It would be like if someone was telling you a really long and elaborate riddle. Then, right as they give you the last clue, the tell you the answer without giving you any time to get there on your own.
Pro: Jeremy Renner & Elizabeth Olsen (+10pts)
I really enjoyed this movie and the two lead actors were the main reasons why. This may be the best performance that I have ever seen from Jeremy Renner. His character is in a tremendous amount of emotional pain that is hidden beneath the surface. This character is (emotionally) wounded and could have been performed in a way that made him come across as cold and boring. Instead, Jeremy Renner gave it depth and properly depicted the pain beneath the surface.
Elizabeth Olsen plays a rookie F.B.I. agent who is in way over her head with this case. The harsh conditions of Wind River reservation has her completely out of her element. That being said, she cares deeply about finding whoever was responsible for this murder so she has the sense to realize she has no idea what she is doing out in Wyoming and she has the sense to know that Cory Lambert needs to be directly involved in the case. I thought Elizabeth Olsen did a good job of finding the balance. She did a great job of showing how overwhelmed her character is but also showed the passion her character had for the victim.
Con: Motives (-4pts)
Again, I will not spoil anything if this movie but I did not think the assailant's motives worked for this movie. Do I believe something like this actually happened? Yes, but when the film was heavily dramatized and the mystery was heavily focused on, the audience will try to piece things together and come up with various answers to the mystery. The audience tries to figure it out before the characters so they will come up with an infinite number of crazy outcomes.
Then the reveal happens, the audience learns why the crime happened and wonders "is that it?".
I do not doubt that something like this happened (I know it has happened countless times in our species' history) but, for a heavily dramatized story, this conclusion felt anti-climactic.
Grade: B+ (89pts)
I really enjoyed this movie. The performance was great, the setting was fascinating, and the mystery was compelling. This movie has great action while it is happening and the supporting characters are just as interesting as the main characters. This movie falls apart (a little bit) with the conclusion but, where the movie was already so high, it did not fall very far.
I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end but, it is a bit of a slow burn, so may be better suited for a home video viewing. Whether you catch it in theaters or wait for it to home vide, I definitely think Wind River is a movie worth seeing.