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Movie Review: “Wind River”

Updated on May 29, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Wind River

Theatrical Release: 8/18/2017
Theatrical Release: 8/18/2017 | Source


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 woman 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.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
The Cowboy & The Reservation (+8pts)
Private Security (-2pts)
The Mystery (+6pts)
The Reveal (-4pts)
Jeremy Renner & Elizabeth Olsen (+8pts)
Motives (-4pts)

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then awarded for each Pro and taken away for each Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points ranging from 0-10 allowing me to convey to you how significant these Pros or Cons are.


Pro: The Cowboy & The Reservation (+8pts)

The setting of this film was 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 did 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 film. 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 dealt with regular basis

Then there was Jeremy Renner's character, Cory Lambert. He was a hunter-tracker and worked as a wildlife official on the reservation. He was a park ranger of sorts, but most of his job consisted of hunting predatory animals that affect the people on the reservation. He was one of the few people living on the reservation who was not Native American, but he had an incredible amount of respect from the locals. Cory Lambert was a gun wielding protector of a reservation where rules do not apply they way they do in most of the United States, so Cory Lambert had to take the law into his own hands. In that respect, he was an outlaw and an avenger—no, not Hawkeye. Cory Lambert, and his gun, gave way for a great action sequence toward the end of the film. He was a badass cowboy and the cold, harsh environment of Wyoming was 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—as soon as you think about their roles in the film—you will realize how terrible these performances were. This movie was all about the mystery. It was about the two main characters trying to find answers and it was about the audience trying to figure out the answers along with them.

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 performances by these guys were way too over-the-top and it just did not fit the tone of this film. These characters belonged in a cheesy action film, not a dramatic character story.


Pro: The Mystery (+6pts)

The best part of this film was the mystery. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) tracked the unknown criminal like he would any predator. He started from the beginning and tracked the person or persons responsible by following their trail of bread crumbs. It was an easy enough mystery to get invested in. An innocent young woman was mysteriously killed, and was most likely abused before being killed. The crime pulled me in immediately, and the fun of the film was following Cory Lambert as he tried to uncover the truth and bring justice to those responsible. It was a simple premise, but it was definitely effective.


Con: The Reveal (-4pts)

While the mystery was fairly entertaining to watch, this film lost quite a bit of steam when it came to the reveal. The filmmakers just really seemed to struggle to capitalize on the build up of 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 got through his trail of mystery, then right as he got a final clue, the film gave us a flashback that told us who did it, and how it happened. As if Cory Lambert knew enough of the puzzle that he was able to basically see exactly what happened. I totally believe that he could have figured out who was responsible, but I do not buy that he would have been able to know how severe the situation was. At best, he knew the next person that they needed to talk to. It just felt like the filmmakers were building toward their mystery’s conclusion naturally, realized it was taking too long, so force fed the rest of it to us.


Pro: Jeremy Renner & Elizabeth Olsen (+8pts)

I really enjoyed this movie and the two lead actors were a couple of big reasons why. This may be the best performance that I have ever seen from Jeremy Renner. His character was in a tremendous amount of emotional pain that was hidden beneath the surface. This character was emotionally wounded and could have been performed in a way that made him come across as cold and boring. Instead, Jeremy Renner gave the character depth and properly depicted the pain beneath the surface.

Elizabeth Olsen played a rookie F.B.I. agent who was in way over her head with this case. The harsh conditions of Wind River reservation had her completely out of her element. That being said, she cared deeply about finding whoever was responsible for this murder, so she had the sense to realize she had no idea what she was doing out in Wyoming, and she had the sense to know that she needed Cory Lambert 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 was, while also showing the character’s wise decision-making as well as showing the passion her character had for getting justice for the victim.


Con: Motives (-4pts)

Again, I will not spoil anything, but I did not think the criminal’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 will try to figure it out before the characters, so they will come up with an infinite number of crazy outcomes.

Then the reveal happened—telling us what happened and why—and it was a bit of a let down. I do not doubt that something like this happened. I know it has unfortunately happened countless times throughout history, but the conclusion to this movie felt like it was not worth the heavily dramatized story that led up to it. It just seemed like there should have been more.

Grading Scale


Grade: B+ (87pts)

I really enjoyed this movie. The performances were great, the setting was fascinating, and the mystery was compelling. This movie had great action while it was happening, compelling main characters, and supporting characters who were just as interesting as the main characters. This movie fell apart a little bit with the conclusion, but it did not fall very far. I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end, but it was definitely a slow burn.


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