FRIDAY NIGHT/MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: Last night, I saw “Wind River” which stars Jeremy Renner (The Avengers, Arrival), Elizabeth Olson (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Godzilla ), Graham Greene (The Green Mile, Dances with Wolves), and Gil Birmingham (Hell or High Water, Rango). It is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water). An FBI agent (Olson) is sent to Wyoming after a Native American woman is found dead in the snow. Partnering with a local huntsman (Renner), the agent follows the case to devastating results.
A few years ago, I saw the film “Sicario,” and was blown away at its grit and brutality by means of the drug cartel in Mexico. The ensemble cast was exceptional, embodying characters you’d hate to be in witnessing the terrible events they investigated. Fast forward from 2014 to 2017 with the release of “Wind River,” Taylor Sheridan’s return to the FBI realm of stories. Yes, Sheridan made “Hell or High Water,” a movie I reviewed last year that was pretty solid. However, it didn’t shake me up as much as “Sicario” did, and I was hoping to find that in this new film. Not until a a week ago, I didn’t know “Wind River” existed; I knew of it since then, but never saw the trailer. There’s something about watching a movie without seeing its advertisement…something special. Not knowing what you are necessarily walking into adds a new layer to the experience that you don’t get often in this world. Commercials, internet spoilers, and word of mouth encapsulates films before I sit down in the theater to see them. It was nice to hear nothing and see nothing regarding this release beforehand. Anyway, how did this movie do for Sheridan and his portfolio? I would say great things. Sheridan has a flair for the “inspired by true events” flicks, and you can really feel his imprint on this picture. Instead of being placed in the mid-west or Mexico, the story bases itself in the cold landscape of Wyoming; an interesting and visually appealing setting at best. I love movies with snowy locals being as how there aren’t many like them; “Fargo” and “The Empire Strikes Back” are prime examples. Obviously, when you have a cold location with a small town, a murder case is bound to happen. This time around, it involves Native Americans. Sheridan’s grittiness shines through this release, though in more controlled areas unlike “Sicario.” Most of the action takes place in the third act, with only sprinkles of tense scenes leading up to that. In its wholeness, “Wind River” is a slow moving, tense drawl to a climax worth witnessing. Unlike Sheridan’s other pieces, this film takes its ever-loving time to build its story. Besides it’s gruesome crime scenes, there isn’t much to see in terms of intensity. How you feel about this determines your experience. For me, I felt that these efforts fell more flat than hit home. That’s not to say that this was a boring, bland movie. I thought it was really good, though the first hour had a sluggish flow, filled with dialogue that teetered between interesting and necessary. Interesting dialogue situates characters in riveting or intriguing moments that move the plot along, while necessary dialogue serves to only explain what’s to come next or define a character; whether or not it’s good is left up to the writing. For the most part, I was interested in what “Wind River” sets up. The performances are solid and the murder mystery was interesting enough to follow up (I’m a sucker for mysteries to begin with). Jeremy Renner’s character was the most intriguing since he had a past, though it wasn’t like he was, in Shrek’s terms, an onion. You didn’t have to peel him back to understand his ordeal. It is made clear that he is connected to this case by means of his deceased daughter; all that happens to him isn’t complicated or revolutionary. Much of what “Wind River” is is an amalgamation of other films I have seen, both in terms of story and how it flows. It actually felt as if Sheridan pulled some aspects from his own feature, “Sicario.” There’s an FBI woman who does a job out of her comfort zone and the outcome of these events are horrifying. The only differences lie in location, dialogue, and focus of plot on the male lead. This isn’t a bad thing, though it does leave me wanting a bolder, newer approach. Where this movie was bold was in its gruesome moments and interesting mystery. Outside of that, when it came to character development, things got shaky. I understand what these characters are going through. The reality of the situation is terrifying to think about, but the characters weren’t as great to draw into as I wanted. I wanted a bit more meat to who they were; maybe a few more character building moments with the two leads. Besides that, I don’t have much else to complain about. This aspect is why the first act and a half are slow in flow. Sitting through it, I was hoping for a momentous pay-off. It wasn’t that I was hating the experience, but that I wanted a release; something to ground this story and carve it into something memorable. I received that in the third act. My goodness guys, was the last thirty minutes of this spectacular. I won’t go into spoilers, but once the investigators arrive to the last leg of their case, that’s were things got riveting and epic. It reminded me of how brutal “Sicario” was, as well as “No Country for Old Men” (another awesome flick). I loved the third act and found myself boosting this score up by a mile because of it. That portion alone made me admire Sheridan once more, and commend him on his writing. People who see this will argue that the slow first half was for build-up, and while that is true, I wish I grew closer to the characters in the process; maybe even get some memorable moments aside from it’s amazing cinematography (that and the score shaped this feature). What I’ve stated as flaws weren’t much of a hinderance. It certainly kept the film from reaching my criticism of “Sicario,” but that doesn’t hold it back from being a very well-made movie with a fantastic finale. If you love Sheridan’s work, you’ll enjoy this; if you are a fan of mysteries, you’ll like it as well. As for me, I can say I was satisfied. FINAL SCORE: 89%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: