With rich dialogue and strong, quiet acting, in “Wind River,” loss is everywhere. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
You have undoubtedly seen many films that cover, generally, about the same territory as Taylor Sheridan’s “Wind River”: a murdered young woman; a cold, unforgiving landscape; a crime investigator carrying his own quiet tragedy. But you probably haven’t seen one quite like “Wind River,” a movie less interested in examining the crime than in uncovering the icicle of grief at its core.
The story unfolds on a Native American reservation in Wyoming, a place where the snow falls thickly in waves, like emotions. The barefoot, frostbitten body of local teen Natalie (played by Kelsey Asbille in a long, devastating flashback) has been discovered, and a rookie FBI agent named Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is summoned to investigate the case. With the help of game tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), who’s haunted by memories of his own lost daughter, as well as the local police chief (Graham Greene, wryly stealing the movie with some welcome wit), the woman’s fate begins to take shape, and gunfire rings out in those quiet hills.
Sheridan, the screenwriter behind “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” writes dialogue that’s lean yet rich, and gives the actors time to let their words hang in that cold air. Loss is everywhere: in the hardened faces of young men who’ve given up hope; in the eyes of a grandmother reluctant to lend Jane the snow gear belonging to her dead granddaughter; in the quiet bedroom left behind by that girl in the snow, crammed with pretty dresses and scribbled notes and ribbon rosettes and smiling photos. And it’s in the long, quiet glances exchanged between the tracker and Natalie’s grief-choked father, Martin (Gil Birmingham), two men at different signposts on an endless road. “Take the pain. Keep it,” says Cory, as if sharing a cherished secret. “It’s the only way you can keep her with you.”
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Wind River,’ with Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, James Jordan, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Asbille. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. 107 minutes. Rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language. Lincoln Square, Meridian, Alderwood Mall 16.