Wind River is a subtle crime mystery that will haunt you

City Press review

Film: Wind River

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen

A young woman runs across the snow. She’s panicked, breathing heavily and clearly trying to get away from something. We see that she’s barefoot, and when she falls, it’s clear she won’t be getting up again.

This is the opening of Wind River, a disturbing crime drama by Sons of Anarchy actor and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan.

Set in a Native-American reservation in Wyoming, it looks at how crime – especially against women – manifests in poverty and despair.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a wildlife officer and professional hunter who becomes involved in helping young FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) solve the case. She’s out of her depth in freezing Wyoming, and it soon seems like she might also be in danger.

In terms of atmosphere, I haven’t seen a film this haunting or deeply melancholic since Mystic River.

Sheridan is adept at evoking the cold loneliness of the landscape, so much so that the Wyoming wilderness becomes more of a character in the story than merely a setting.

The acting is strong, the characters complex and the story realistic.

Sheridan lived on a reservation in his early 20s and says his script relied on his real experiences there.

“I witnessed the real failure of government to deliver the things that it had promised it would deliver when it consigned people to live in very specific areas and then ignored, which is sort of the policy, every promise that had been made, repeatedly,” he told entertainment website Collider.

“Because the area’s so isolated, the consequences seem to land harder. The bombs seem to have more concussion.”

The film opens with a “true events” card, which Sheridan says is in reference to the “thousands of actual stories just like it” involving sexual assault of women on reservations.

Ironically, the film was produced by The Weinstein Company, which fired its co-founder Harvey Weinstein last month after scores of women accused him of sexual assault and harassment.

(Photo: Ster-Kinekor/Supplied)