WIND RIVER (2017)

  • Release Date: 18/08/2017
  • Writer and Director: Taylor Sheridan
  • Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Kelsey Asbille, Graham Greene

Wind River is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, the man who wrote “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water”. Wind River completes what movie buffs across the world have come to know as Sheridan’s Frontier Trilogy and if it is to be looked at in that way, it proves to be a cracking finale to a series of deeply affecting and thrilling films. I was hearing a lot of buzz about this film and even though its trailer didn’t do much for me, I was interested in giving it a try. I watched it during one of my trips to a place nearly inundated by flood and in a cagy room filled with the smell of pouring water and rotting wood. After the first view, I immediately re-watched it and then watched it again the following day under very similar circumstances.

It’s just that trivial bit of information that I have to add to this review but I feel that the atmosphere in which I watched this film really added to the somber mood of the whole experience and it went a long way into making the film that much more captivating for me. “Wind River” like “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” effectively uses its setting and layout as a character of the film itself. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the film makes it a point to use the settings in such a way that you cannot help but feel the gloom in the wind.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a veteran game hunter in the “Wind River” reservation of Wyoming. For the uninitiated, the Wyoming reservation consists of mostly Native American Indians and some Americans who were forced to live there. Lambert’s task is to save domestic livestock from predators. He is also a tracker with uncanny abilities. More than anything else, he is also a father with a horrifying past. On one of the coldest days of the winter, he comes across the dead body of a girl who has been evidently brutalized and violated. He has seen her grow up with his daughter and is a friend to her family. He reports the murder and the FBI send Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to investigate the matter. Jane is as ill-equipped to deal with the situation as she is ill-dressed for the biting cold of Wyoming. However, having no one else to fall back to and only each other for support, the duo start putting together the pieces leading to the perpetrators of the horrifying act.

Wind River starts off slow and easy much like Sicario and Hell or High Water. The tale takes its time to build up but nothing in that time will let your attention slip. From the very first scene, the film strikes an emotional chord with the audience that is perpetually elevated as we move ahead with the tale. The first time we see Lambert and are introduced to his family, we understand full well that he has a past. The manner in which we see him connect with his wife and kid gives us an idea of a disconnect and tragedy that is lying somewhere within. Then he discovers the body and the mood gets even denser. The scene where he finds the body and spends a considerable amount of time by her side ruing over the loss tells us that he has more to do with her than just having found her remains.

The arrival of Banner sets alight the proceedings. The first scene where we meet her and the discussion that we are made privy to make it abundantly clear that this is going to be an exceptionally realistic and on your face film with just that kind of performances. As her character dwells deeper and deeper into the case, she learns of the dilapidating living condition of the Native American Indians and can’t help but thrust her guts and will into setting at least one wrong right by bringing the perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice. It must also be noted that with every passing scene she grows in confidence and prowess as she literally jumps from one frying pan to another.

Jeremy Renner is exceptional in his essay. Be as it may, he is even more brilliant in the emotional scenes that he shares with Olsen’s character. We learn of his horrific past in bits and pieces throughout the film until a scene where he lays it out to Banner in an exceptionally emotional and volatile act. When he is telling the story, one can say that actually, he is feeling pain. He doesn’t cry and he does so with a lot of effort. That effort is visible. I can’t even imagine how much preparation or effort has gone into this scene itself. Even when he is on his own, discovering things, you know what is going on in his mid through the expression that he puts on his face. This is easily one of his best acts till date.

Elizabeth Olsen is the perfect Jane. I found it ironic and interesting that her character was called Jane as she was from a town and lands up in the wild, alone and without a guardian. She is rescued again and again by a native for whom the jungle is home. As she learns more and more of him and his life, she comes to understand the natives of that very jungle and stands to fight for them with all her might. Tarzan and Jane anyone? Even though how odd or ill-placed that thought of mine might be, but I couldn’t help but mention it as I saw an uncanny resemblance of the Tarzan and Jane tale with that of Cory and Jane.

Olsen is a total natural in the film and her act is in perfect sync with the mood and feel of the film. She is constantly in awe of the sheer negligence of such a big chunk of people of a country that should have known better. She is further disillusioned at also the amount of neglect and wrong choices that the Native Americans have made and continue to make. All this works like a rolling down mass of emotions that resemblance an avalanche. Olsen brings her character to life with a lot of love and care.

The third most important character of Wind River is its setting. The manner in which it is captured and more than that, its mood. The film boasts of the kind of cinematography that we have seen in Sicario and Hell or High Water but this is a completely different palate even though the sensibility and manner of approach remain the same. The frigid terrains of Wyoming lit occasionally by a glowing sun is captured and presented with a tint of blue and lots of fluffy snow that keeps getting in your eyes. The progression from Mexico (Sicario) to Texas (Hell or High Water) to Wyoming (Wind River) has been organic and beautifully envisioned.

I was surprised by the amount of action and body count that this film had on offer. As the film progresses, you never take it to be the kind of violence-laden drama that it ends up being. I was bowled over by the action and the manner in which it is envisioned and executed. The climactic battle will easily be the highlight as far as the action is concerned.

Wind River is a terrific film in every sense of the term. It is the kind of film that is rare, temperamental, affecting and asks the right question. It successfully creates a real world with heartbreaking situations and characters but also delivers an extremely satisfying climax that is bound to ensure that one and all leaves the theater with a smile on their face. This one is a must watch.

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of  5 Stars)

 

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