Movie Review: Jeremy Renner Navigates Solid ‘Wind River’

Movie Review: Jeremy Renner Navigates Solid ‘Wind River’

A Wyoming wildlife officer stumbles across the body of a Native American woman who was raped and left to freeze to death in a bitterly-cold environment in Wind River, which won an Audience Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival back in July and now rolls out in cinemas across the Czech Republic. 

Jeremy Renner stars as Cory Lambert, an experienced tracker with a dark past hired by local law enforcement to hunt down mountain lions on a Wyoming Native American reservation. But instead of wildlife, he finds the frozen corpse of a young woman. 

Due to the nature of the crime, the F.B.I. is called in to investigate, represented by a single officer: the young and inexperienced Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who has never worked a murder case before. 

Both Renner and Olsen are playing prototypes, but it’s to the movie’s credit that they don’t follow the usual narrative arc - and it’s to both actors credit that these characters feel real. Renner is perfectly cast, but Olsen displays an unexpected finesse in bringing a three-dimensionality to her role. 

Their investigation follows the textbook route, but Wind River takes a lot of time to pause and examine its unique environment. There’s some solid acting in support by Native American actors including Graham Greene, as the local sheriff, and Gil Birmingham as the father of the murdered girl. Chilly cinematography by Ben Richardson beautifully captures the stark snow-covered landscapes. 

Only one thing bothered me here: the climactic actions of the killer(s), which brings everything to a head more quickly than anticipated, and simply feels illogical. Just what, exactly, was their plan?

Wind River was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote last year’s Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water. River is a chillier and darker film, appropriate given the setting and storyline, but both movies explore similar territory of Americana with topical contemporary social context. 

Where Water focused on the trials of blue collar Texans in the wake of the financial crisis, River takes aim at the exploitation of Native Americans - and their land - by the U.S. government and corporate interests. 

Neither movies are terribly subtle with their thematic material, but both are more-than-welcome examinations of the kind of contemporary troubles faced by the middle class in red state America.

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