How successful someone’s career is measured in the quality of their work. That’s not entirely a secret as every industry imaginable focuses on the quality of a person’s work. In sports it’s all about how championships the franchise has won over the years – there’s no way any team will ever be on the same level as the Lakers, Celtics, Patriots and Yankees as far as franchises are concerned. With the film industry, it’s less about how many Oscars are on a shelf but the consistency of the work that’s put out. We all know Leonardo DiCaprio is a phenomenal actor, yet he only has one best actor award. Taylor Sheridan has been on a roll as of late with everything he touches turns to gold before our eyes.
Sheridan, the actor turned writer and director has an impressive resume to date: Veronica Mars, Sons of Anarchy, Sicario, and Hell or High Water. With the latter two, Sheridan is the writer. Wind River is Sheridan’s directorial debut of a script in which he also wrote. Just like his previous two screenplays Wind River is of the highest quality that’s expected of him now. Hell or High Water got Sheridan his Academy Award nomination but taking the seat in the directors chair only gives himself more control in the final outcome.
It’s his world and we are just eating up every project he puts his name on. I’ll gladly take seconds or thirds.
“I’m just tired, Cory. You know, I’m just tired of fighting this life.”
It’s no secret of the western influence Sheridan uses in his scripts. He’s basically keeping the western/American frontier genre alive, giving the genre a fresh set of eyes while staying true to the originals that molded what the genre is today. This allows the stories to be a bit thinner than usual with the focus on the characters created instead.
Deep in the Wyoming wilderness during the winter, fish and wildlife agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) comes across the body of a young woman, dead and frozen over from running barefoot. A gruesome scene brings in rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to investigate. Jane requests Cory’s assistance since the police force is spread pretty thin over the state and Cory is a hunter that knows the terrain like the back of his hand. Out in the wilderness on the Wind River Indian reservation the chance of solving this murder is slim to none which serves as a constant reminder of Cory’s daughter who was murdered, and the case, never was solved.
Wind River is a basic murder mystery – it’s been done before, many times over but it’s the characters that will make you invested in Sheridan’s story. Reuniting from the MCU and Avengers: Age of Ultron – Jeremy and Elizabeth pick up right where they left off. Granted they aren’t “Avenging”, but their chemistry is at an all-time high together. Just like the plot, Jane as a character is written pretty thinly, but that’s ok since Cory packs on the added emotional depth and character development to look the other way as far as Jane is concerned. Instead, Jane’s inexperience and unpreparedness says more about her character than any sort of development could. The good thing is, Jane is resilient, she never quits proving herself useful as an FBI agent. It’s because of this that Cory is the anchor that pushes the story forward.
Cory’s past is what draws him in. His daughter was brutally murdered just like Natalie (Kelsey Chow) who happened to be his daughter’s best friend. This strange coincidence allows Cory to empathize with Natalie’s father Martin (Gil Birmingham). Gil, in the few scenes he’s in brings more emotional weight to his character than Jeremy or Elizabeth. He steals the spotlight with the gravitas his character gives off. In those couple of moments, his pain, anger and heartbreak is felt.
“I don’t mean to offend you. I am just trying to understand the dynamic here, Mr. Hanson. I’m trying to help.”
Characters aside, Wind River’s and Sheridan’s strength is centered around the amount of tension built from scene to scene with the end resulting in a Mexican standoff. Throughout the investigation the action is scarce with one or two scenes that get the blood boiling, but it’s the final act where Sheridan lets loose. It’s almost impossible to look away with how gripping these final interactions are to miss anything playing out for our amusement.
Wind River’s conclusion give the story a sense of satisfaction, all has been fully resolved or that’s what we are made to believe. There is still the unsolved murder of Cory’s daughter. It can be hinted or interpreted that the murders might be related to one another but ultimately that thread will never be fully realized. It’s Cory’s failure in finding the killer that gives him the depth to sympathize with, yet his story feels like there’s more too it. For me personally, I didn’t mind not solving that murder since the focus was on the murders of Natalie and her boyfriend Matt (Jon Bernthal). Since both got the justice they deserved, Wind River feels complete (in a sense of the word) from start to finish.
So, tell me, have you seen Wind River and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Wind River is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan is Rated R and has a 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Wind River was released on August 3, 2017 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 50 minutes. Wind River can be bought by online retailers including iTunes, Amazon & Google. 4 out of 5.