Magazine article Variety

Wind River

Magazine article Variety

Wind River

Article excerpt

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Wind River

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbille, James Jordan

Not every great screenwriter has what it takes to step behind the camera and direct a movie. Yet every once in a while, a gifted screenwriter comes along who seems destined to take that leap. There was a lot of anticipation at Sundance before the premiere showing of "Wind River," the first movie directed by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the brilliant screenplays for "Hell or High Water" (2016) and "Sicario" (2015). I suspect that's because Sheridan thinks like a director even in his scripts, which don't just have crackling dialogue - they have pace, structure, dimension. (That, of course, is what all screenplays are supposed to have, but how many of them do?) Sheridan also possesses a fully scaled vision of our society, and of what's gone wrong in it. He's drawn to men of violence on both sides of the law, and to the intricacies of crime, but what he's really drawn to is depicting those things as an expression of our inner hunger. He's a bristling entertainer with the soul of a noir poet.

"Wind River," a murder mystery set on a Native American reservation that's nestled in the wintry desolation of Wyoming, continues those obsessions. The movie opens in the middle of the night, with a Native American woman running barefoot, like a wounded animal, across the snowy tundra. A day or two later, her body is discovered by Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a wildlife officer whose job is to hunt and kill predators, like coyotes and wolves, that prey on local farm animals. On this particular trek into the blizzardy slopes, he's hunting down a family of mountain lions, but their tracks lead him to the frozen-solid corpse of Natalie (Kelsey Asbille), an 18-year-old Native American who was once friends with his daughter. An autopsy reveals that she was raped, and that she died because her winded lungs burst from inhaling the sub-zero air. She was that desperate to get away from someone.

Sheridan, from the opening shots, is in full command as a director, though not because he has built the movie around another of his elegantly barbed and perfectly carpentered screenplays. "Wind River," if anything, tells a looser, scragglier, more organically simple story than "Hell or High Water" or "Sicario." Sheridan wants us to know these people, this terrain, to feel the bite of the cold and the lonely sting of their lives. …

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