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REVIEW — “Wind River”

With this and Ingrid Goes West, I’m fully in love with Elizabeth Olsen

Wind River is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, stars Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Chow, and Graham Greene. It tells the story of an FBI agent who teams with a town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. Wind River was one of the big hits out of Sundance for many reasons. Taylor Sheridan was making his directorial debut, the A-List actors, and the subject matter made it ripe for the picking. But even with all the hype, I found myself moderately excited for it. I was seemingly the only person last year who didn’t love Hell or High Water and other Sundance features seemed to take my attention. So, now that I’ve seen it, what did I think. I was a damn idiot. Wind River is an intense thriller with great direction, a disturbing story and two fantastic performances from its two leads. This honestly blew me away. It starts a tad bit rocky and oh boy does it pick up.

Taylor Sheridan is making his directorial debut and my god is this a strong first outing. Sheridan has a great sense of direction here and this is clearly a very personal story to him. He has such an energy behind the camera and even though this is his first film, he’s honestly one of the most exciting up incoming directors out there. Every issue present (whether it be pacing, framing, or something of that sort) is very fixable and obviously just because this is his first time. As much as I’m gonna rave about Wind River, it’s not perfect. I would have liked the beginning to have been a bit sharper and some plot lines, like the one with his son, felt a little useless. Other than that Sheridan kills it in the director’s chair. Every theme and idea is explored masterfully and the story, as simple as it is, hits hard. I’ll watch anything Sheridan makes from here on out and I can’t wait to see what he does next. I just wonder what area of the world he’ll decide to make a western in.

Taylor Sheridan also penned the screenplay and this is his third feature and in my opinion his best. In the past, he wrote the fantastic Sicario and Hell or High Water and this is just a perfect trilogy.  While the script at times can be weaker than other sections, it’s still very good. I often use the phrase “When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s bad” and for Wind River, I would say when it’s good, it’s good, and when it’s great, it’s fantastic. At times, the dialogue could be a little clunky and a little on the nose, but these are all problems he can fix on his next project. The reason I’m being so forgiving on this is that I know Sheridan obviously knows what he’s doing and I trust him enough to know he will improve. Whats in Wind River is so great, that the few flaws I have with it almost feel like nitpicks. I know it’s not fair to give this movie a pass just because I like the director, but the reason I do is that what I see here, is exciting. If he just works a little bit on tightening up sections and writing sharper dialogue, he could honestly be one of the greats of our time.

Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star here and they both give fantastic performances. Renner is so subdued and venerable here and he gives a performance reminiscent of Casey Affleck in Manchester By The Sea. He is playing a character holding back a lot of anger and sadness due to an immense amount of grief he must process on his own and he does a fantastic job. He is Oscar worthy here and it competes with his work in The Hurt Locker. Olsen is playing very much a fish out of water and she does a great job. She manages to pull off the confused tourist  (for lack of a better word) while also still being capable and smart. She’s a very smart and strong person in a very foreign environment. She gives one of the best performances of her career here. and while Renner is given more of a chance to shine than her, she still holds her own. The rest of the cast is great too. John Berenthal and Gil Birmingham were both stand outs in my eyes. Every character is well acted and while it’s mainly just Renner and Olson, everyone does their part justice.

On a technical level, Wind River is pretty solid. The editing is very well done here at the cinematography is expectedly gorgeous, albeit a bit inconsistent at the beginning. The sound was a bit off at times, there were a few scenes where I had trouble hearing what the characters were saying but I might just be going deaf. The score is super cool. It’s unsettling, emotional, scary, and beautiful all at the same time. Now I do feel the need to mention there is a shoot out scene in Wind River and without spoiling anything, it’s one of the best shoot-out scenes I’ve ever seen. It honestly ranks up there with Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It’s seriously a perfect scene. If you guys can’t tell I kinda liked this movie.

In short, I really loved Wind River. It’s not gonna change the world, and while it’s my favorite of the year so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t stay there. It’s just really well done. Everything is so solid and so good that I can’t help but love it. It’s old fashioned, intense, and emotionally satisfying. I recommend you see this as soon as you can and even though I’ve probably supremely overhyped it, I still think you’ll dig what you see. 5/5

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