Wind River: Five Reasons You'll Love It
Taylor Sheridan's career as an actor began, as many do, in fairly unremarkable fashion. Making his first on-screen appearance in a 1995 episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, Sheridan spent the early years of his career scratching out a living with bit-parts on TV shows such as Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman and various police procedurals, including NYPD Blue and CSI: NY. It would be a full decade before Sheridan got his big break with a recurring role on Rob Thomas' mystery drama series Veronica Mars, which in turn led to major role as Deputy Chief David Hale on Sons of Anarchy.
In recent years however, Sheridan has been gaining recognition not as an actor, but as a screenwriter, penning the scripts for Denis Villeneuve's excellent 2015 film Sicario and David Mackenzie's equally superb neo-Western Hell or High Water, the latter earning Sheridan a series of nominations for Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the Academy Awards.
Last year saw another of Sheridan's scripts make its debut on the big screen, this time with Sheridan himself in the director's chair. Wind River stars Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert, a tracker working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, where he discovers the frozen body of a young woman who appears to have been assaulted. After reporting his find to the reservation's police chief, the FBI are informed and send a field agent named Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to investigate.
Needing a guide to the reservation's vast area and unforgiving climate, Banner recruits Lambert to help with the investigation and soon learns just how bleak life on the reservation can be.
With a small but talented cast that also includes Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham and Julia Jones, Wind River arrived in UK cinemas last September and has already picked up awards at Cannes and from the National Board of Review, but on Monday (January 22nd) the film arrives in stores on DVD and Blu-ray and we've rounded up five reasons why we think you'll love this character-driven crime drama...
A film that's more than the sum of its parts
With a modest production budget and a small cast, Wind River is almost as austere as the snow-covered Wyoming landscape in which it is set and, taken at face value, you could be forgiven for thinking that this isn't going to be much more than a garden variety murder mystery. But don't be fooled; Sheridan is a skilled writer and there's real depth to each of the characters in this well-crafted story. There are no big action set-pieces, special effects or any of the usual Hollywood trappings, but the film doesn't need them. Instead, Wind River relies on well-written dialogue and great performances to deliver a tense and visceral thriller that manages to do a whole lot with very little.
Renner and Olsen deliver some brilliantly measured performances
Sheridan reportedly waited a long time to cast Renner, who was in the middle of working on Arrival with Denis Villeneuve when he began casting the film, and while there are certainly bigger names that could have filled the role it's easy to see why the director was happy to wait until his man was available. Playing a grieving father attempting to atone for a family tragedy by helping find the girl's killer, Renner's performance is a masterclass in restraint and Olsen is equally measured as the fish-out-of-water FBI agent battling to solve a crime in a male-dominated society. Great casting can so often be the difference between a hit or a miss and that certainly proves to be the case here.
It's beautifully shot
Cinematographer Ben Richardson deserves some of the credit for the film's intense atmosphere and his input is evident from the very first scene, with a young woman running breathlessly across a vast expanse of uninterrupted white snow. The film's setting is beautiful but extremely harsh environment and almost every shot of the surrounding landscape manages to convey that blend of beauty and danger
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis provide a suitably haunting score
Cave and Ellis have become a formidable team when it comes to creating film scores and their work on Wind River helps to create a haunting and evocative atmosphere for Sheridan's film. The director gave them an unusual brief; keen to avoid the stereotypical Native American tropes, he asked them to create a score as is they were writing for a sci-fi film and the result is an ethereal, otherworldly score that's as haunting as it is beautiful.
It delivers a powerful message on an underreported issue
While not based on any single specific case, the film's harrowing story is inspired, as Sheridan puts it, by “thousands just like it” and the film's poignant message draws attention to the scandalously high numbers of women going missing on Indian Reservations, as well as law enforcement's limited capacity to combat the problem. There is no public body that even keeps statistics on missing persons from Native American communities and, until a change in federal law in 2013, sexual assaults committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on Indian Reserves couldn't even be prosecuted, because it's a state crime on Federal land. Wind River admirably draws attention to this injustice and does so in a very powerful way.