Now that son #1 is home, I have a willing movie-watching partner! Last week we went to see Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, and both of us give it two enthusiastic thumbs up. I should add that neither of us has seen Sheridan’s Hell or High Water, so I don’t know how this movie compares.
Set in the stark beauty of the Wind River valley in Wyoming, the film deals with a bleak subject — the rape and murder of young women on an Indian reservation — without wallowing in violence, getting too preachy, or forgetting its very human characters.
Jeremy Renner plays a Fish and Wildlife employee, who rids the Reservation of mountain lions, wolves and other predators that threaten the inhabitants. A good man bearing a terrible burden of grief, he’s in the perfect position to help the FBI Agent, Elizabeth Olsen, track down the murderer(s). And he gets to wear a cowboy hat and plenty of Carhartt clothing while doing it.
I won’t go into the plot because I don’t want to give anything away — after all, it is a mystery. However, I will comment on what I really liked about it. Aside from great performances, excellent direction, superb cinematography and editing, and fine music, Wind River’s greatest asset is its script.
It is a great relief to watch a movie that has a truly excellent script, one that invites the audience to draw conclusions, does not treat viewers like idiots, and actually has something to say. The main characters come across as real, decent people just trying to deal with what life throws at them. Though I’m no expert, Mr. Sheridan seems to treat the situation on the Reservation with an even hand. There’s a strong sense of community and everyone knows everyone else. Upstanding working families exist right along with poverty and drug abuse — just like they do in the rest of the country.
Amid the predominance of the BLM movement, it’s nice to see someone finally pay some attention to Native American problems. Wind River deals with the twin issues of crimes against Indian women and hopeless conditions on the Reservation, but instead of pointing fingers and politicizing, it humanizes them, and in doing so becomes vastly more effective. The film reminds us that human suffering is universal and that it’s up to us to alleviate the suffering of others.
Wind River is a violent, sad movie, but the director — also Mr. Sheridan — handles the most disturbing scenes so well that what could have been a relentless downer manages to include a little justice and a sliver of hope. Skip the superhero flicks and the vulgar comedies and go see Wind River. You won’t regret it!
*”This isn’t the land of ‘call for back-up’. This is the land of ‘you’re on your own’,” said by the sheriff in Wind River