Wind River has the potential to be a great movie but its melodramatic score pulls you out of the experience every time something very emotional or tense happens. Take for example when Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner are investigating the house of the brother of the murdered girl at the center of the story. Olsen enters gun drawn after just being temporarily blinded, and a cavalcade of tones and harmonies bursts in alongside her, distracting us from the action happening at hand. Perhaps director Taylor Sheridan was unsure that the dramatic tension would speak on its own and added additional, overbearing music, or maybe I might have just gone to a theater whose audio levels were out of sync.
But beyond his scoring choice, Sheridan really did make a solid film here. It isn’t legendary, and you probably won’t ever watch it again after the first time, but is an original enough of a story with Native Americans, people who rarely ever get featured on-screen. Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a hunter who gets enlisted by Elizabeth Olsen’s FBI agent Jane Banner in solving a murder case on Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation. The girl who was murdered was Natalie Henson (played by Kelsey Asbille Chow), an 18-year-old Native American.
The film does an excellent job at portraying the vast emptiness of the rugged Wyoming landscape. While other movies lionize the great outdoors, Sheridan isn’t afraid to depict the harsher realities of being in a small mountain community, where crime and drug use often isn’t caused by poor parenting or society’s ills, but just the fact that there wasn’t anything better to do.
It moves quite slowly at the beginning but things pick up when we get into heartfelt emotional displays from Renner and Olsen. It’s Renner’s best performance since The Hurt Locker, and another incredible dramatic notch in the ever-expanding belt of great performances for Olsen. And man, is that climax and ending something else.