Writer and debut director Taylor Sheridan (screenplay for “Hell or High Water”) has in “Wind River” approached a subject that has been haunting Native American reservations—the disappearance of and crimes against young women.
The film begins provocatively with a young woman running desperately through snowy terrain to escape. Subsequently her frozen body is discovered in this snowy region of Wyoming by Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert, a federal officer whose job entails killing predatory animals stalking the Wind River reservation. He becomes determined to find out what happened to this young woman, identified as Natalie (Kelsey Asbille), 18, who, it turns out was once friendly with his daughter, whose loss has been a mystery to Lambert. Tests show that Natalie was raped.
The plot advances when FBI agent Jane Banner, dedicatedly played by Elisabeth Olsen, arrives to investigate Natalie’s death. Based in Las Vegas, Banner, with little experience, has to learn the local ropes as she works with Lambert.
We and Banner get to discover much about the locals and life in the area. A working bond develops between Banner and Lambert as they try to solve the mystery. Olsen delivers a strong portrait of an FBI agent with courage. Eventually, there is a lethal confrontation with a gang of misfits as the film takes a violent turn with lives at stake, and we learn truths via a harrowing flashback.
As screenwriter, Sheridan carefully constructs the progress toward a resolution interwoven with the mounting action. As director, he nails down the area’s look and challenging, wintry environment and keeps suspense mounting.
“Wild River,” with its ultimate revelations, is capped by a postscript at the end pointing to statistics showing a frightening number of disappearances by young woman from Native American reservations. The impressive film focuses on what appears to be the tip of the iceberg. A Weinstein Company release. Reviewed August 4, 2017.