Wind River – Movie Review

I actually saw this movie three days ago and I held back on writing this review for a bit because I needed to digest the movie and make sure I was certain about how I feel – This is an amazing film with some next level acting, great pace, beautiful cinematography, and a layered story.  I loved it.  Absolutely loved it.  Now that comes with a caveat.  This is far from an easy movie to watch.  This is not the kind of film you can just pop in on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  I had to sit in the theater a minute after the lights came up and just reset myself before driving home.  With out any further ado, let’s get into it.

Wind River stars Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent in Wind River, Wyoming.  When Cory is out hunting a predator, he comes across the body of a woman who appears to have died under suspicious circumstances.  After contacting the authorities, rookie FBI Agent Jane Banner, played by Elizabeth Olsen, is sent to lead the investigation.  As the investigation proceeds, Banner enlists Lambert as her guide in both the wilderness and as she tries to understand the way of life in Wind River.

For my money, this is one of Jeremy Renner’s best performances ever, if not his best performance.  His performance here is right in line with his roles in The Town, The Hurt Locker, and American Hustle. As the movie unfolds, we learn a lot about his character’s backstory and just how much pain he’s had to endure and how his personal history intersects and, in a lot of ways, mirrors the murder that he is investigating.  Renner brings a fantastic simmering, brooding presence to this film and he deserves all the accolades and awards he will undoubtedly receive for his performance. Elizabeth Olsen is also fantastic here.  Her performance is the best one I’ve seen her give. Admittedly, I’m only familiar with a small sampling of her work, namely the two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies she’s in and Godzilla (2014), so she could very well have something better out there but this performance is going to be hard to top.

As for the story itself, it is a beautifully told, well paced, heart breaking story of the rape and murder of a young girl.  Wind River never shies away from it’s emotional core and makes you truly feel for everyone involved in this story of awful people doing awful things and innocents paying the price for it. I loved the way this movie builds towards it’s climax, slowly adding pieces to the puzzle until the whole picture comes into frame. Near the end of the movie, probably around the beginning of the third act, there is a choice made by the filmmakers that will catch you off guard but it is one of my favorite things about this film.  The scene I’m talking about is probably the hardest to watch of the entire film, there’s no way around that, but the way it is inserted into the movie as a whole is just perfect.

There is another really intelligent decision made by the filmmakers that I’d like to talk about here (there will be minor spoilers in this paragraph). There is a scene near the middle of Wind River where Banner and Lambert have a heart to heart and Lambert tells his story. In that moment, I felt like that would be the point where our two leads fell for each other and spent the night with each other but that didn’t happen and I was incredibly relieved as it would have been a lazy writing choice that would have completely undermined the scene.  Throughout the movie, you can tell that Banner and Lambert have a connection but it is as much professional as it is personal.  If the writers had made it so they became a couple by the end of the film, it would have knocked my opinion of this film down a few pegs.  This movie had the ingredients for a potential love story but benefited from not including them – addition by subtraction you might say.

Something else that Wind River did really well was show us the plight of Native Americans in modern America. I’ve often heard that Native American reservations are rife with alcoholism, drug use, and domestic violence but it’s not something that generally makes headline news in America, or even the news at that. Wind River does a fantastic job of illustrating the issues that plague the Native American people but never makes it the focus of the film and thus never get’s overly preachy about it. The movie finds that balance between showing the audience what it needs to see to understand the issues but doesn’t oversell it and shove down your throat.

Wind River is an amazing film bolstered by potentially award winning performances with a highly emotional story. I highly recommend seeing this film and I cannot wait to see it again.

Final Rating: A+

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