Friday, September 29, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Wind River (2017)

WIND RIVER (2017) is an excellent wintry rural crime film starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen.

I first became aware of Renner and Olsen due to their portrayals of my favorite characters in the "Marvel Cinematic Universe," where Renner is master archer Hawkeye and Olsen plays the Scarlet Witch; while they're in more of a supporting tier among the large Marvel cast, I look forward to their scenes the most. I was thus quite intrigued when I read the actors had made a completely different new film together.

Despite my interest and having read many positive things about WIND RIVER, including a thumbs up review by Leonard Maltin, I initially put off going to see it as I was a bit concerned about whether the R-rated violence level would be a little too much for me. I finally decided to give it a try yesterday, thanks to the additional encouragement of several fellow film fans, and I'm so glad I did.

WIND RIVER is violent, yes, but it's also exquisitely beautiful. The snowy Wyoming setting (partly filmed in Utah) is evocative and unforgettable, as filmed by Ben Richardson. The movie simply looks different from most anything else one will find in theaters these days. And as someone who loves spending time in rural areas in Northern California -- though not in winter! -- the movie's setting felt relatable and somewhat familiar.

As I watched the film I was continually reminded of the great "winter noir" ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951), with the similarities going beyond the visuals; both films are about very broken men who find a measure of solace and peace through helping to solve the mystery of a young girl's death in a white wilderness. I couldn't help wondering if writer-director Taylor Sheridan had been at least partly inspired by the earlier film.

Throw in hints of William Wellman's TRACK OF THE CAT (1954), and you have a good idea what to expect from WIND RIVER. It's a movie I feel many classic film fans will appreciate, while duly forewarned regarding its violence, most of which is telegraphed in advance.

Renner plays Cory Lambert, a Fish and Wildlife employee who discovers the body of a young woman (Kelsey Asbille) in the snow while hunting a predatory animal.

FBI Agent Jane Banner (Olsen) is dispatched from the Las Vegas office to investigate, since the apparent homicide took place on federal land. She's unprepared for the environment, needing to immediately invest in snow gear, but she's also tenacious and professional. She recruits Lambert, an expert tracker, to help her search for evidence.

Together Banner and Lambert attempt to interview prickly local residents, including the deceased young woman's Native American parents. They also make a shocking discovery while searching the local mountains via snowmobile, and gradually the facts regarding what happened one horrible night come into focus.

Throughout the investigation Lambert is also dealing with resurgent memories of his own daughter's unsolved murder several years before, a tragedy which led to the breakup of his marriage. I would not be surprised if Renner ends up receiving his third Oscar nomination.

This is a starkly gorgeous film, with moments of both visual and emotional beauty or poignance punctuated by sudden bursts of violence. The final action sequence is bloody yet satisfying as justice is meted out.

Olsen is very likeable as the young agent passionate about seeing justice done. One of my favorite scenes was relatively small but fascinating, as she debates with the medical examiner over the cause of death and the repercussions of his analysis.

My only real complaint regarding the film was that Jane's FBI training regarding approaching suspects behind doors seems to have been seriously deficient! Honestly, someone should know better just from watching crime films or TV procedurals.

WIND RIVER, which runs 107 minutes, is a film I'll be returning to again in the future, as I believe I will appreciate it even more on a second viewing. A trailer is here.

More from other critics: Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times says it's "something special," while Stephanie Zacharek of Time calls it "a beautiful modern Western." Brian Truitt of USA Today terms it "thoughtful and intense."

I hope other viewers will take the time to check out this most worthy film.


Blogger Patrick said...

I am keeping my eye out for this once it hits the home market. Renner and Olsen do make a very appealing screen couple...

11:33 PM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Really looking forward to this. Taylor Sheridan is a great writer, just saw HELL OR HIGH WATER, a well done, dark, adult thriller, and I think SICARIO is outstanding, seen it twice now and highly recommended both to you!

6:46 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'd love of to know what you each think of WIND RIVER. I liked it enough I plan to buy it when it comes out, to rewatch and share.

I'm curious to try SICARIO and HELL OR HIGH WATER now!

Best wishes,

8:48 PM  

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