I have no idea where he came from, but like a totem that sprouted from the ground, Taylor Sheridan appeared with a luminary vision of the neo-western. With the soul of a young Clint Eastwood and the insight of John Ford, Sheridan set out to tackle the modern frontier in a proper manner that truly depicted the troublesome times it faces. With Wind River being his first outing as a director in his American Frontier trilogy he never pulls back on his punches and drives his narrative in an extremely precise manner that simulates that of a sparking chord about to ignite a bomb.
Set in the devastatingly harsh environment of the Wind River reservation, Wind River revolves around the murder of a young Native American woman, but most importantly it focuses on how living in such a melancholic environment can dower your entire philosophy on life. Circumstances lead to the arrival of FBI agent Jane Banner (Olsen) and while it does lend to a fish out-of-water dynamic, Sheridan doesn’t treat said dynamic by its typical conventions limiting the abilities of the the character that’s out of her sphere of comfort, instead he uses Olsen’s inexperience with Wind River as a way of introducing us to this unseen way of living in America. On the other side of things we’ve got someone who knows this reservation way too well in Cory (Renner), a ranger bent on resolving this crime. Together, this duo sets out on what’s an unrelenting detective story with spurts of brutal fighting thrown in the mix.
The last two of Sheridan’s American Frontier trilogy have been called slow-burns and Wind River is no different. Whilst Hell or High Water was way too slow for my liking, Sheridan’s maneuvering of the pacing in Wind River works to great effect in its representation of the grueling scenario we’re been thrust into. Sheridan’s touch on directing here is great, as he’s able to capture to the characterization of the environment and pull some fantastic performances from all of his actors. Jeremy Renner delivers some of his best work to date here, lending the film a stamp of authenticity only a great actor could pull off. As for Elizabeth Olsen, she also delivers with a strong performance but her fish-out-water condition does tend to having her being overshadowed by the talents around her. All in all, Sheridan closes out his trilogy excellently, creating a film that’s important yet holds a story brutal as can be about a portion of America that’s often ignored.