Taylor Sheridan has recently established himself as one of Hollywood’s best screenwriters after penning Sicario and Hell or High Water (see both if you haven’t yet). He has now moved into the director’s chair with Wind River, which he also wrote. It’s a transition he handles with great skill, making one of the year’s best films so far.
On a Native-American reservation in Wyoming, a young woman is found dead in the snow barefoot and without appropriate winter clothes. An FBI agent (Elizabeth Olson) is called to investigate and she enlists the aid of the hunter/tracker (Jeremy Renner) who discovered the body.
What follows is a combination of police procedural and modern western. There is no big twist in the resolution of the woman’s death; the investigation is fairly linear. But, what so many movies and books fail to understand is that twists aren’t everything. The journey, the character development, and the atmosphere are all more important than an “ah-ha!” twist (although Wind River is by no means lacking in story or plot). It excels in immersing viewers in the harsh realities of life on a reservation (the crime, poverty, and utter indifference from the outside world) and the toll that misery has taken on its characters.
If you want to encourage Hollywood to make films that aren’t sequels, reboots, or comic book movies, Wind River is exactly the type of film you should be seeing in a theater.