I walked into the screening of Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River knowing only the genre and the central stars of the film. The intensity of the film’s content alongside the beautiful direction shocked and at times, overwhelmed me. There were moments when my eyes widened, moments when I had to muffle my sobs with my sleeve and there was a single instance when I had to cover my eyes in horror.
Taylor Sheridan is a writer and director well-known for his psychological thrillers. He has written the screenplay for the gritty Sicario, as well as the critically acclaimed Hell or High Water. Sheridan’s most famous films are both high-concept crime dramas culminating with violent stand-offs, yet each film is also decorated with quiet moments exploring the psyche of its tortured protagonist. Sheridan is rightly renowned for striking an intriguing balance between physical action and a character’s conscience.
The story follows a hunter- Corey Lambert (Jeremy Renner) who is forced to work alongside local police officers and an uncompromising FBI agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) after finding the frozen body of the 18-year-old, Native American woman Natalie Hanson. The plot is propelled by the protagonists’ sense of justice and their desire to uncover Natalie’s murderers. Wind River’s plot doesn’t stumble into the stereotypical pitfalls often associated with murder mysteries. The director doesn’t attempt to mislead Wind River’s audience: the mystery surrounding Natalie’s killer is resolved with very few twists and turns. But, although this may sound depthless, by placing the emphasis on the murder rather than the mystery, Sheridan is able to focus on the theme of survival. With the cowardly murderer exposed, Banner and Lambert are able to marvel at Hanson’s will to live despite the tragedy which befell her.
From the haunting opening scene, Sheridan deftly juxtaposes the silence and serenity of Wyoming’s mountainous landscape with the shrieks of agony brought about by chaotic murders. The purity of the white snow blanketing every piece of scenery is only a façade hiding the true atrocities being carried out beneath the surface. Each shot which captures the blood-stained snow perfectly encapsulates manmade horror in the face of nature’s clean, crisp detachment.
I have refrained from recommending this film to anyone. It is disturbing, dark and frankly just difficult to watch. I did not enjoy watching Wind River, it is bleak and filled with death, and yet the film’s unwavering celebration of a woman’s will to live moved me. If you are looking for a thought-provoking, lovingly shot film, concerned with human’s desire for survival, Wind River is the film for you.