RELEASED: 8th September 2017
DIRECTOR: Taylor Sheridan
CAST: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Graham Greene, Kelsey Chow, Gil Birmingham, Julia Jones, Martin Sensmeier, Althea Sam, Teo Briones, Apesanahkwat, Tanto Cardinal, James Jordan, Hugh Dillon, Matthew Del Negro, Austin Grant, Ian Bohen, Eric Lange, Tyler Laracca, Gerald Tokala Clifford and Jon Bernthal
BOX OFFICE WORLDWIDE: $43.9m
During the Winter on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, U.S Fish and Wildlife service agent and expert tracker, Cory Lambert, discovers the frozen body of young Native American Natalie Hanson in the snow. The FBI dispatches the inexperienced but courageous special agent Jane Banner to lead the investigation, who requires Cory’s expertise and knowledge in order to unravel the mystery of Natalie’s murder, whilst Cory will also have to face the ghosts of his past in the process.
Whilst he wrote screenplays for the Sicario films and Hell Or High Water, Taylor Sheridan would write and direct crime drama Wind River in 2017. The film opens with Natalie Hanson running barefoot through the snowy wilderness whilst, in voiceover, reading a letter. When FBI agent Jane Banner is called in from Las Vegas to lead the investigation, the autopsy shows blunt trauma and signs of rape but it cannot be ruled a homicide due to the cause of death being the subzero temperatures causing Natalie’s lungs to fill up with blood, meaning Jane can’t get a full criminal investigation team down. Out of her depth, Jane requires the assistance of Cory Lambert, a professional game tracker who can help her in talking to the Native American community as well as use his experience of the terrain to find out the mystery behind Natalie’s death. When Taylor Sheridan departed the Sons of Anarchy series (played the role of Deputy Chief David Hale), who would’ve thought he’d end up being an acclaimed screenwriter by the end of the decade? Sheridan has this knack of creating adult stories that audiences could be immersed in and not be spoon-fed every detail and Wind River was no different, set in this moody and completely unapologetic and unforgiving setting landscape of the Wind River Indian Reservation that fits with the tone of the overall story. Sheridan stated that he wrote this film to raise awareness of the issue the high number of Native American women being raped and murdered in the country, highlighted in the ending scene with text that makes you feel numb after watching how this film played out, as well as in the scene when Jane Banner speaks to the coroner who post-examines Natalie’s body. He knows she was murdered, Jane and Tribal Police Chief Ben Shoyo are aware she’s been murdered, but he can’t put it down as the cause of death to bring a homicide team in as technically it was the freezing conditions that caused her death and it’s that line of political margins that makes you wonder how often this actually happens. You’re not naive to believe that it hasn’t happened, but you wonder how often murders aren’t given the type of investigations they require. Sheridan’s direction is very good here, he definitely has an eye for building tension and having the right amount of time to focus on character-drive/character-building moments for the audience to digest, though the flashback sequence of what led to Natalie to run out barefoot in the snow will cause you to wince. Elizabeth Olsen gives a great performance as Jane Banner, the inexperienced FBI agent that’s playing catch-up in Wind River (pretty similar to Emily Blunt’s character in Sicario), Graham Greene gives a good performance as Tribal Police Officer Ben Shoyo, who assists Jane and Cory on the investigation, and Gil Birmingham gives a memorable performance as Natalie’s father Martin Hanson, showcasing grief and anger in a nuanced manner. The standout performance for me, however, was Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert, which for me his best performance to date as a man who has to revisit the grief of his daughter who died in similar circumstances to Natalie and it’s the little touches that Renner provides to his character during the course of the film (taking his hat off and having a moment to be emotional when looking at a photograph of his daughter Emily and Natalie) that provides a window for the audience to feel for this stoic figure and the scenes that he shares with Gil Birmingham’s Martin are just terrific to watch. Whilst his screenplays all have a pivotal shootout that the films build up to, it’s Sheridan’s social commentary and quieter moments in the scripts that make the films worthwhile viewing and Wind River is no different.
FAVOURITE SCENE: Jane Banner, Ben Shoyo and the local police meet with the security crew of the drilling camp and start making way to their sleeping quarters, until one of the police officers looks around and says “What the fuck are you doing? Why you flanking me?” The tension is at an all-time high watching this scene and plays so differently on repeated viewings.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “How did he go out?
With a whimper.” – Martin Hanson & Cory Lambert
DID YOU KNOW: During the course of the shoot, writer-director Taylor Sheridan was visited on set by some Shoshone tribal leaders who astonished him with the revelation that, at that very time, there were 12 unsolved murders of young women on a reservation of about 6,000 people. Due to a 1978 landmark government ruling (Oliphant v. Suquamish), the Supreme Court stripped tribes of the right to arrest and prosecute non-natives who commit crimes on native land. If neither victim nor perpetrator are native, a county or state officer must make the arrest. If the perpetrator is non-native and the victim an enrolled member, only a federally-certified agent has that right. If the opposite is true, a tribal officer can make the arrest, but the case must still go to federal court. This quagmire creates a jurisdictional nightmare by choking up the legal process on reservations to such a degree, many criminals go unpunished indefinitely for serious crimes.