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Review: Wind River

A thrilling mystery in the tradition of the American Western

07 September, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in Wind River

Directed by Taylor Sheridan
Certificate 15

The Frontiersman has always loomed large in the American imagination. This mythical character has changed and morphed through the decades to respond to the climate of the times and is frequently re-imagined on screen. From Wyatt Earp and Jesse James to Butch Cassidy and Josey Wales, it is a cornerstone of American film recycled time and again.

Here, the typical Western tough guy takes the form of tracker and State fisheries and agriculture department employee Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), working in the hostile and beautiful wilds of Wyoming. His horse takes the form of a skidoo, his rifle slung across the back not to take on bandits but to cull the wolf population taking live stock.

He is a classic good guy – tough, grizzled, at one with the great outdoors and heavy with survival skills. And, of course, he has a well-honed moral compass, partly forged through his own experiences. He’s a tough guy in the true tradition of the Western genre.

In this thrilling mystery, we learn he has split up from his wife, a native American, but learn only why as the film’s plot reveals his personal motivations.

As he is tracking a mountain lion that has taken a steer, he comes across the half-frozen body of an 18-year-old, who has been viciously raped and run, barefoot, into the mountains to escape her assailant.

A rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is sent to oversee the case, and with his help and that of the local police chief (Graham Greene) they set about trying to find some justice and enforce the law in a place where you feel little has moved on from the times of outlaws, sheriffs and the Wild West.
Renner is measured, a tough guy in the great tradition, yet believable as his back story unfolds. Olsen also convinces.

Above all, if you are a fan of the Western, it is wonderful to see a contemporary version of the greatest films of American cinema.

Wyoming provides a bleak yet beautiful landscape for the story to play out, and there is a clear concept of right and wrong, with the motives interspersed by the lonely sound of gun shots echoing off the snow-laden mountains.

This film ends with a horrible fact that puts the story into context. Namely, the continuing racism and its knock-on effects native American people face every day in the USA – and that women from this ethnic group are the worst treated.


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