Film Review: ‘Wind River’ Unleashes a Stunning Performance by Jeremy Renner

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Competency is one way to describe Taylor Sheridan‘s directorial début “Wind River.”  Another way is to say it’s a solid starting point for a director who will need to evolve in the way he chooses to tell stories to keep viewers engaged with future outings.  The writer of the brilliant “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” presents all of his strengths but with all of his weaknesses intact with his take on a murder on a Native American reservation.  With a hopeful eye, Sheridan will take more risks and construct more tangible characters with an even more complex technical team.

Inspired by true events, “Wind River” tells the story of a game tracker (played by Jeremy Renner) and an agent (played by Elizabeth Olsen) who investigate the mysterious death of a young woman on a Native American reservation.  As the two move closer to the truth, the haunting memories and fears of both come to the forefront.

One of the luring points to Sheridan’s mysterious tale is the impeccable and moving work of Jeremy Renner, who delivers his finest performance since “The Town.”  Entrenched in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Renner is finally offered an opportunity to latch onto a multi-layered character, and show emotions for the viewer to engage.  Skillfully executed, Renner’s bitter and mournful turn stands firmly as one of the best delivered in 2017.

While Sheridan may not have mastered all the executions of directing, he gets the best from his supporting cast particularly Gil Birmingham, who in two brief scenes, captures devastating perfection.  As clear in past features, Sheridan still seems to struggle with his writing of female characters.  Elizabeth Olsen’s Jane Banner, could have created a new subtitle for the movie called “Wind River: How to Be the Worst Agent in History.”  Almost offensive in how incompetent she is at times, to which they try to strategically blame on her age, Jane only serves as a youth vessel for Cory Lambert to “save.”

By the end credits, Sheridan chooses to share that there is no log for missing women in the Native American community.  While that fact is disturbing, and deserves its own narrative art form, that premise is never explored, let alone mentioned in the scenes that precede it.  It felt “tacked on” by the end to garner a reaction from the audience.

Invigoratingly shot, “Wind River” comes alive due to its cinematography by Ben Richardson, best known for his outstanding work on “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”  It’s one of the film’s true high points.

Wind River” provides drama and mystery to the summer movie landscape.  It shows itself for a solid piece of entertainment to chug along the year. If awards prospects are being sought out, you can look for a strong Lead Actor candidate in Jeremy Renner.

“Wind River” is distributed by the Weinstein Company and will be released in theaters on Aug. 4.

GRADE: (★★★)

And be sure to check the Oscar Predictions to see where “WIND RIVER” ranks.

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE |DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING |
MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |

  • Joey Magidson

    I like it more than Clayton does, but I agree that Renner is tremendous. One of my favorite performances of the year so far.

  • Baggins

    please correct me if i’m wrong. i haven’t seen the movie yet but it kinda makes me think of Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River. is it anything like that?