Native Americans have long since teetered on the edges of acceptance – be it sociological, behavioral or judicial. Having arrived in America some 15,000 years ago, their tribes have been at the receiving end of slavery, poverty and warfare – throughout their livelihoods. As of today, mere 5 Millions of American Indians are left in the States, residing in selected reservations – as Taylor Sheridan rightly points out in Wind River, stripped of everything except silence and snow.
After having written two extremely insightful screenplays respectively in Hell or High Water and Sicario, it was not a surprise that Taylor Sheridan’s maiden directorial venture was highly anticipated. He had shown an excellent knack of drawing character behaviors deep from the roots of their communities, showcasing a sense of belonging – thus making the protagonists utterly complete and scarily real. Now with Wind River, he has taken his penetrating vision to the outer vestiges of a forgotten community and has churned out a crime thriller that sucks you in, makes you feel their pains and quietly let goes as you shudder imagining the emotional wallop these people have gone through.
When a young American Indian is found dead in the middle of a frost bitten nowhere by Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) arrives for further investigation. She is a newbie, a sheep among wolves, lost in the labyrinth of the landscape and that’s where Cory rises up to the mantle as he assists her in discerning the mystery at hand. Sheridan further gives a complex background to Cory as the present nearly mirrors his horrific past resulting in a compelling emotional turmoil that grips you hard, almost choking you for breath.
It’s frightening how desolately cruel the third most vital character – Snowy Wyoming is to the Wind River. The lenses track the endless desert of snow and it’s harshness is as barren and unforgiving as the nation has been to the community. Further, the bleakness of the terrain is jarring to the senses, another parallel that Sheridan masterfully mixes in this crime cocktail, quietly manipulating viewers to draw empathy. It’s slow burn of a pace may off put some but those who remain faithful are in for a thundering third act which leave no stone un-turned at violently tugging at your heartstrings.
There is a certain sense of abandonment hanging in the air, amplified by the unforgiving viciousness of the landscape. Wind River packs a meaty gut punch as Sheridan cuts the tension with a surgical knife and let us bleed in the process. Haunting, meditative and a somber look at aftermath of a loss, it’s Renner’s intense eyes and beautifully written redemptive arc that gives a beating heart to this stone cold thriller.