Your weekly Netflix Pick is in! 2017 was a fantastic year for movies. Even the Academy Awards didn’t bore us to death with projects no one could stand to sit through. The only downside to a year with so many great movies is it’s hard to see them all. Case in point, for me anyway, was Wind River.
Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a Wildlife worker and a career tracker. Lambert lives near a somewhat remote Native American reservation. His ex-wife and son are members of the tribe but a clear emotional divide has them separated.
While tracking Lambert finds the body of another tribe member. Kelsey (Natalie Asbille) was never reported missing. The circumstances around her death are suspicious. The FBI sends a young rookie agent named Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen).
Banner is out of her depth and recognizes the potential in Lambert. Lambert agrees to help the young girl solve the case. This is far outside his job scope. He agrees because the case has personal resonance with him.
Wind River offers a clear and well told murder mystery. While the plot isn’t the most unique it does a good job with the narrative. The case follows along without excessive red herrings and false information. The difficulty of joint law enforcement cooperation does get in the way. Exacerbating the problem is jurisdiction in a Reservation.
The biggest hindrance to the case is also the films most cinematic element. The Wind River Reservation is located in Wyoming. The scenery is absolutely stunning. Filming on location makes a huge difference in movies like this. While the story is cinematically small, meaning no big action, the scope of the movie feels huge. The landscape paints a picture for how the people on the reservation live. Some parts of our country are still very remote despite the connected nature of our world.
Wind River didn’t get enough credit for the diverse cast it features. Not only is the lead a strong female but much of the cast is diverse. Actual Native Americans were cast for many of the appropriate roles. It’s sad that in 2017 this is an accomplishment but the actors did a good job. Subtle moments explain how these people have lost much of their heritage. The message never overshadows the plot.
I’m gonna get this out of the way. Marvel Reunion. There, it’s out in the open… let’s move past it. Jeremy Renner does a good job as a man with a broken past. A bit more emotional payoff would have been nice as his character’s story came to a close. The actor himself wasn’t lacking anything. Elizabeth Olsen drops her irritating accent for an FBI windbreaker. Her character’s arc isn’t anything unique. She jumps into the role and does little things to make it her own and doesn’t come across as a total trope.
The standout performance for the movie is Jon Bernthal. Bernthal usually plays a heavy. He’s a big intimidating guy so that makes sense. Wind River gives him an limited amount of time to get across a lot of emotion. Bernthal is introduced showing his softer side. Soft turns to irritation and eventually the beast of Bernthal comes out in full form. It’s a spectacular performance across a single scene.
Director/Writer Taylor Sheridan has a modest resume. Along with Wind River he has written Sicario, Sicario 2, and Hell of High Water. Sheridan is a talented man to keep an eye on. His directorial eye in River along with his partnership with cinematographer Ben Richardson (beasts of the Southern Wild) makes the standard cop story a cinematic experience.