Actor turned director, turned writer, turned director; Taylor Sheridan has a vast resume and one that’s been on the front page of most executives for the past few years. Sheridan acted in countless shows from the mid 90’s onward, and only recently decided to go behind the camera. His first film, Vile, an ultra-indie, ultra-gory horror flick whose low production budget and messy plot earned it a dismal 5/10 on IMDb (to put that in perspective, Transformers: The Last Knight has a 5.3/10). Then in 2015, Sheridan wrote the cartel-thriller/ critical gem for Denis Viluneuve, Sicario. The next year, he wrote David Mackenzie the Oscar winning screenplay, Hell or High Water.
The accomplished scribe is back in 2017 to direct his own script for the first time, and what a script and direction it was. At times slow and poignant and at others penetrating and heart-pounding; Wind River is an emotional thriller that shines light on an under-seen portion of the country while still able to highlight its clever script, recognized actors, and strong director.
Wind River tells the story of a veteran game hunter (Jeremy Renner) who teams up with a young FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Time is against them as the harsh climate of Wyoming encompasses the Wind River Native American reservation on which the murder occurred. Starring alongside Renner and Olsen are Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Asbille, and Jon Bernthal. The supporting cast is a group of talented actors whose mix of veteran and new blood feels like a good fit for the sophomore director.
Jeremy Renner, on the other hand, gives a lingering performance which makes a serious case for the being the most powerful of his career (rivaling the Oscar nominated turns in The Hurt Locker and The Town.) Renner’s ability to remain conservative but also become expressive when need be felt faithful and true-to-life. One of a director’s main jobs is to be able to produce a performance from their actors, and the team-up of Renner and Sheridan is a potent one that I’m eager to see what will come from it in the future.
The script and resulting film feels small, not in scope, but in constraint; there’s no subplots we’re asked to care about that detour us from the overarching reason for the film. The way in which Sheridan and Renner were able to play off the characters past and subsequent passion to decipher the crime was timed exceptionally and added to the maturity of both. A few times the dialogue may have felt clunky, but was eclipsed by most that was ingenious and a third act crescendo that is solitarily the utmost intense scene I’ve seen this year (and it happens on two separate occasions!)
The barren wasteland of Northern Wyoming produced spectacular visuals while the setting of a Native American Reservation is a criminally underutilized portion of our nation that is boasting with sentiment and compelling atmosphere. The drugs, poverty, and disdain for the white-man are all prevalent, however dealt with authenticity and a delicacy that comes off very understanding.
“At times slow and poignant and at others penetrating and heart-pounding; Wind River is an emotional thriller that shines light on an underseen portion of the country while still able to highlight its clever script, recognized actors, and strong director.”
The development of Sheridan’s filmmaking is astonishing; for only having one film under his belt and it looking and feeling quite amateurish, he has taken a massive leap that could easily result in awards come the end of the year. The film is growing strong, in its now fourth weekend it has literally doubled its intake week by week, and is currently just above $10 million (countered to a $11 million budget). Late August is a dead-zone for studios and their most disappointing films; for TWC to release a well-made and well-liked film in the heat of one of the centuries biggest lulls, hopefully will consequence warranted box office, critical, audience-appreciated, and awards success.
Cinema 35 Rating: 10/10