Many people know Taylor Sheridan for penning the screenplays for Denis Villeneuve’s heart-thumping thriller, Sicario, and David Mackenzie’s gritty neo-western, Hell Or High Water. Capping off his ‘frontier trilogy’, he steps behind the camera for Wind River – an investigative thriller set amidst the snow-covered plains of Wyoming.
Sheridan has quickly established himself as a screenwriter of merit, crafting tense tales and lean scripts loaded with crackling dialogue. He doesn’t beat around the bush with his themes — his characters are often open books, but never simplistic. Simply put, when he’s attached to a film, your ears should perk up.
Wind River is no different, winning Best Director at Un Certain Regard in Cannes, and picking up considerable buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In a standout lead performance, Arrival’s Jeremy Renner plays wildlife officer Cory Lambert, who, with a pistol on his hip and a rifle in his hand, spends his days hunting down predators that attack local livestock. While out tracking mountain lions, Lambert finds a body in the wilderness of the Wind River Indian Reservation. The circumstances of the death are eerily similar to that of his own daughter.
Sheridan was inspired in part by the real Wind River, a Native American reservation populated by Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. It’s a hard place to live: the cruel winds and heavy snow mean it is often cut off from the outside world, making it a remote and lonely spot.
Sheridan makes use of the snowy terrain, showing that blizzard-whipped slopes are every bit as desolate as the red sandy plains of The Searchers or barren sand flats of The Man From Laramie. The life-sucking landscape adds to the mounting tension, proving to be every bit as deadly as the mysterious murderer. This is complemented by a beautiful, elemental score from long-time collaborators, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Once the murder has been reported, the local tribal police officer, Ben (Graham Greene), calls the FBI for help, which arrives in the form of greenhorn agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), on secondment from Las Vegas. Lambert and Banner are forced to work together to discover the murderer. If you like atmospheric thrillers with explosive moments of action, Sheridan offers up a tale with true grit.