With an eclectic cast, beautiful scenes and excellent direction, Wind River is garnering some well-deserved Oscar buzz. Having made its debut at the Sundance Film festival in January, it is winning awards and earning praise all over the world.
Wind River Indian Reservation is a rather lonely place with all the issues facing the Native American tribes throughout the country. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner; The Avengers) isn't one of them but was previously married to a member of the tribe so he is trusted amongst the people. He also works for the Fish and Wildlife Department, so when one of his ex-father in law's cows is killed by what seems to be some lions, he goes to the reservation to look into it. As he tracks the lions he comes across the body of a teenage girl, dead from running in the frigid weather at nighttime. She was also barefoot, which leads Lambert and the Reservation police chief, Ben (Graham Greene; Dances with Wolves) suspect foul play.
Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen; Avengers: Age of Ultron) is the FBI agent sent to investigate. She seems a little green and definitely out of her element – both physically and emotionally. She asked Lambert's help to find out what happened and track down whomever it was the teen was running from that night. As she speaks to the family and friends, and Lambert himself, she realizes she knows little about the life on a reservation and is unprepared for some of what she sees and hears. In the end, she finds herself enmeshed in a larger problem that almost gets her killed. Meanwhile, Lambert is dealing with personal demons that this fresh murder brings back to the surface of his mind.
Renner might not have been the first choice to play Lambert (Chris Pine – Star Trek- had to drop out before filming began) but he is a good one nonetheless. He has a face that paints a portrait of controlled anger simmering just below the surface and in his eyes, you can see the torment and pain that haunts him. Olsen is a little underutilized, I think, but she delivers for the most part. The supporting cast does a nice job but standout Gil Birmingham (Hell or High Water), as the girl's grieving father, offers a brief but mesmerizing performance that accentuates the despair.
Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, the film is no lighthearted affair. Like his previous films Sicario and Hell or High Water, Wind River tackles some of today's political and social injustices facing this country and takes a look inside a Nation and its people. While the moral preaching doesn't slam you in your face, it does lay a subtle foundation that helps set the tone of the film. Though not as strong as the previously mentioned films, Wind River does have some interesting dialogue and subtle undertones.
The Cinematography is breathtaking. The wide expanses of snow-covered valleys are serene, isolating and powerful. The view at once offers a calming sensation mixed with a sense of loneliness that showcases the devastating and unforgiving terrain. This lays the foundation for the story and accentuates they vast Wyoming country.
There is a reason Wind River is gaining momentum. While it can be hard to watch at times, it is a compelling story that envelopes the audience from the opening scenes.