Published Aug 08, 2017Career changes can be a scary thing in Hollywood, especially when it involves an actor switching to screenwriting. But for Sons of Anarchy star and 21st century bit player Taylor Sheridan, the transition has been a seamless one, with the 47-year-old gaining loads of critical acclaim — first with 2015's Sicario, and then with last year's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water — for his engrossing dialogue and razor-sharp, Coen brothers-like societal critiques.
Now, he's giving the director's chair another go (after a reprehensible turn with 2011 horror Vile, a film that was strangely stricken from IMDB until recently) with Wind River, a revenge/survival thriller set on a Wyoming reserve that makes the most of its sublime, snow-covered landscape.
Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a divorced father working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who finds the frozen body of an 18-year-old Indigenous girl while working in the wilderness. It's a discovery that stirs up memories of his daughter, who mysteriously disappeared — only to be discovered dead — a couple of years earlier.
FBI rookie Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is flown in from nearby Nevada to help investigate the case. She recruits Lambert to help her traverse the countryside — an area described by local sheriff Ben (played by homegrown hero Graham Greene) as the size of Rhode Island and with only six police officers to its name — and track down the killers. It's a journey that takes them everywhere, from the homes of bereaved family members to meth heads, local police departments to private security companies and across sheets of snow, undulating mountains and everywhere else in between.
The story is a smart one, with taut action scenes recalling seminal works like Silence of the Lambs and Reservoir Dogs, and one that's acted expertly by its cast (Jon Bernthal shows up by film's end, and Hugh Dillon delivers one of his most harrowing performances). But it's the film's setting — which oscillates between beauty and bleakness — that really ratchets up the sense of dread and reminds viewers of the ways North America has neglected its native people (it's the overarching message behind this visceral crime drama).
Wind River is a film about loss — of land, of people and of the soul — that will linger in your mind long after it's done.