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Saturday, November 11, 2017


The plot is clearly laid out and the movie crackles with tension as the drama is played out. (Review by Patrick Compton - 8/10)

Taylor Sheridan has recently revealed himself as a screenwriter of note in Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (2015) and David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water (2016), muscular modern Westerns with spasms of brutal violence, terse dialogue and occasional moments of sardonic humour.

Now, with Wind River, he memorably completes his trilogy of “Stetson thrillers” as well as making his debut as a director.

Sheridan’s first two screenplays were set on the Mexican border and in Texas; this one distances itself from them in more ways than one, being set on a Native Indian reservation in freezing central Wyoming.

A Native Indian teenager is found dead in the snow. There is evidence of multiple rape as well as a head wound. She has also run barefoot for kilometres through the snow before collapsing and dying. Was she murdered or somehow driven to her death?

A local hunter, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), teams up with FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) as the two search for suspects in the barren, bitterly cold region where Indians struggle with unemployment, drugs and an overwhelming sense of alienation.
Banner, young and inexperienced, leans on the grizzly hunter’s local knowledge, not only of the terrain, but also the people with whom he is intimately connected courtesy of an Indian ex-wife and their young son.

Within the thriller format, Sheridan has successfully managed to shine a light on the lives of the Indians on the reservation, pointing out the injustices that continue to oppress the local people.

The plot is clearly laid out and the movie crackles with tension as the drama is played out; a brutal, graphic flashback, surprisingly inserted three-quarters of the way through the movie, solves the whodunnit aspect, but a gripping sequence prevents any possibility of an anti-climax.

Renner has real presence as the hunter, while Olsen is attractively eager to learn as his courageous partner. There is also a powerful supporting performance from Gil Birmingham as the murdered girl’s grieving father.

The tough-as-teak dialogue is well up to Sheridan’s usual standard bar a couple of slightly self-conscious speeches and Ben Richardson’s camera vividly portrays the austere beauty of the snowbound landscapes. However it’s a pity – though far from surprising – that a film that focuses so sympathetically on the Native Indians still needs a couple of white Hollywood actors to play the “hero” roles.

The atmospheric soundtrack comes from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis who first collaborated with Sheridan to memorable effect on Hell or High Water.

Wind River is showing at Durban’s Gateway cinema complex. – Patrick Compton